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March 28, 2015

"State auditor asks for grand jury probe of Baldwin's use of taxpayer funds on election" reports: Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler on Friday asked the Attorney General's Office to launch a criminal investigation into the Baldwin County school system's use of taxpayer funds to promote next week's property tax referendum.

The school system has spent tens of thousands of dollars on consultants, campaign materials and other expenses related to persuading people to renew property taxes totaling 7 mills and approve new levies equaling 8 mills. The last figure provided by the school system is $156,989.

In a letter to Attorney General Luther Strange, Zeigler indicated that he was acting on behalf of four Baldwin County residents in requesting that prosecutors convene a grand jury to investigate the use of taxpayer funds. If Strange agrees, it could result misdemeanor charges punishable by a maximum of a year in jail upon conviction.

"This needs to be stopped," Zeigler said in an interview. "Regardless of the outcome of the vote March 31, this needs to be stopped." -- State auditor asks for grand jury probe of Baldwin's use of taxpayer funds on election |

March 21, 2015

Mobile license commission gave office email list to candidate for mayor reports: In the days leading up to election night of a hotly contested mayoral race, Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie allegedly leaked thousands of private taxpayer email addresses from a county database to the mayoral campaign of Sandy Stimpson.

Now that Hastie is facing a federal criminal charge on the matter, the architects of Stimpson's winning campaign maintain that their actions were by the book. ...

Five days before the April 2013 mayoral election, Hastie and Yeager met with License Commission employees in August 2013 and Hastie instructed one of them to email "everyone within Mobile's city limits" a statement from her endorsing Stimpson, court records show.

The employee warned Hastie that sending out an email would be "improper" and cautioned her against it, according to court records. Hastie then directed the employee to retrieve and download email addresses of Mobile County residents onto a flash drive. -- 'The list came to the campaign': Stimpson electioneers talk Kim Hastie's alleged last-minute email scheme |

December 14, 2014

Conflict between ALGOP chair and committee members over payment to direct-mail firm

Montgomery Advertiser reports: Alabama Republican Party chairman Bill Armistead's decision to not seek another term as party chairman was preceded by an increasingly heated dispute with the GOP's treasurer and members of the party's steering committee over payments he made to a direct mail firm in the closing days of the general election.

The dispute culminated in a special meeting at the end of November where, according to emails and to four members of the steering committee, a no-confidence motion was brought up and an audit of spending over the 2014 cycle was approved. The no-confidence motion did not succeed.

Armistead declined Friday to speak in detail about the dispute, saying the motion was from a group of "disgruntled people" on the steering committee. "There's no issue here other than an issue of a treasurer not willing to sign off on invoices for various reasons," he said. -- Conflict erupts between GOP chair, committee members

November 4, 2014

Vote or "land may be given to honor ... klansmen."

ALcom reports: A flier distributed by a Montgomery civil rights group warns Alabama voters that if they do not vote Tuesday, "land may be given to honor extremist groups to honor klansmen."

The reference to the Ku Klux Klan is part of the flier titled "18 reasons why you should vote if you're 18 years or older." The flier also warns of cuts to food stamps and unemployment insurance. ...

The flier features the logo of the Alabama New South Coalition, a civil rights advocacy group founded in 1986. Its purpose is "to promote the general welfare of all people through independent focused organizations dedicated to progressive ideals of freedom, justice and democracy," according to its website. -- Alabama land will be used to honor 'klansmen' if people do not vote, flier from New South Coalition warns |

October 29, 2014

Commercial use of the Alabama Great Seal is illegal

Just in case you were thinking of sending out letters with the Great Seal of Alabama on them, it's illegal (Ala. Code § 13A-10-13 makes it a Class C felony). And state officials seem not to like that bit of impersonation:

California state officials are now looking into whether any state laws were violated when researchers from Stanford University and Dartmouth College sent to some of the state's voters a mailer similar to the one that has stirred significant controversy in Montana and in political science circles nationwide, TPM has learned. -- California Is Now Looking Into That Controversial Poli Sci Election Mailer

October 26, 2014

"3 local campaigns received funds from Speaker Hubbard, paid thousands to companies he owns"

The Decatur Daily reports: The campaigns of several area legislative candidates received thousands of dollars in campaign funds from entities controlled by recently indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard and paid thousands to companies he owned.

State Reps. Dan Williams, R-Athens; Terri Collins, R-Decatur; and Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, all entered office in 2010, and all received support from Hubbard. During the same election cycle, each of their campaigns paid money to Hubbard's printing and media companies. Hubbard, R-Auburn, was then chairman of the state Republican Party and House Minority Leader. After the November 2010 election, he became House Speaker.

The lawmakers said they did not know at the time that Hubbard had an ownership in the companies.

"At a minimum, it creates an appearance that this is all just money being laundered through a candidate and back to enrich the originator of the funds," said Meredith McGehee, policy director of The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign-finance organization based in Washington, D.C. "These transactions sound so incestuous. The candidates should have been aware of the appearance this would create, even if there was not an understanding that, ‘I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.' " -- Financial ties that bind - Decatur Daily: News

October 15, 2014

A-Vote and Progress PAC contribute to legislative candidates reports: The Alabama Education Association's political action committee has spent more than $200,000 on Democratic candidates in legislative races so far this month.

Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education, AVOTE, also gave $300,000 this month to Democrat Parker Griffith, who is running against Republican incumbent Robert Bentley for governor. That was the second $300,000 contribution from AVOTE to Griffith. ...

Meanwhile, the Business Council of Alabama's PAC, Progress PAC, has spent roughly the same amount, about $200,000, on Republican legislative candidates this month. -- AEA PAC spends more than $200,000 on Democratic candidates for Legislature |

Disclosure: I provide legal assistance to A-Vote.

Trouble inside ALGOP reports: With only three weeks until the General Election, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead is charging some high ranking members of his own party with efforts to "sabotage" the GOP's efforts at the polls.

In an email sent out just before 1 a.m. Tuesday, Armistead says this to members of the GOP Executive Committee, a key leadership group of the party. ... "Several members of the ALGOP Steering Committee seem determined to sabotage ALGOP's 2014 political plan to suit their own personal preferences. They want to disregard the work that has been done, and is being done, by our political team who has worked for nearly two years developing our plan based on demographics, voting history, polling data and viability of candidate."

Armistead explains in the email that the goal of the party has been to win all seven U.S. House of Representative seats (the GOP holds six of seven) and win certain targeted legislative seats now held by Democrats and certain seats at the local level. Armistead said the underlying goal is to strengthen the GOP at the local level to establish it as the majority party at every level. -- State GOP leader charges some in party with sabotage of efforts to win in November |

October 4, 2014

"Alabama political ad spending hits $26.8 million"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Political campaigns in Alabama have spent at least $26.8 million on advertising this year, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State's Office.

The figures jumped significantly last month, as campaigns began emptying their wallets for the fall push toward the general election. According to campaign finance reports, political ad spending reached $4.7 million in September. That was nearly four times the spending reported in August, but still well below May's peak, when candidates spent over $11 million to secure victory in hotly-contested Republican primaries.

The total spending on ads this year is larger than all but nine state agencies received in the General Fund budget in fiscal year 2014, which ended on Tuesday. The sum is also very close to the total General Fund allocations that the state's district attorneys ($27.5 million) and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles ($27.2 million) received from the budget.

To date, the largest spender has been the Alabama Education Association, which has spent over $3.8 million on advertising this year. Gov. Robert Bentley's campaign has spent $2.8 million to date this year. Bentley's campaign reported spending $1.6 million on ads last month; AEA reported spending just $30,000 on advertising, though it spent $1.1 million overall in September. -- Alabama political ad spending hits $26.8 million

September 24, 2014

Alabama is 11th nationally in political-TV spending

AP via Opelika-Auburn Now reports: Alabama ranks 11th in the U.S. in spending on TV ads for the 2014 state-level campaigns and first on such spending in legislative races, according to a national report.

The report by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity found that Alabama campaigns for state-level offices, ranging from governor to the Legislature and state school board, had spent $6.9 million on TV ads that had aired through Sept. 8. The number will grow significantly as the general election approaches on Nov. 4. ...

In some states, political groups running ads independent of the candidates have played a major role in TV spending. But in Alabama, candidates accounted for $6.5 million of the total and groups only $433,800. The biggest spending groups were the political action committee of the state teachers' organization, the Alabama Education Association, with $307,300 in ads and former Gov. Bob Riley's Alabama 2014 PAC with $125,000. Riley's group spent money to try to maintain the Republican majority in the Legislature, while AEA spent money to challenge some incumbent Republican legislators. ...

These figures represent only part of the money spend on political advertising. They do not include the money spent on ads on radio, online, in direct mail, or on local cable systems, or the cost of producing the messages. That means the total cost of spending on political ads can be significantly higher. -- | AP News

August 28, 2014

"Tracking" comes to Alabama reports: An advisory to Democratic county chairs has been sent, warning them of Republican-leaning videographers who are recording candidates at events, according to Herbert Kuntz, chairman St. Clair County Democrats and the author of the letter.

Kuntz told on Wednesday that he sent the letter after an incident on Aug.14 at the Pell City recreation center. ...

Kuntz had organized the meeting to let state Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery, speak about his candidacy for Alabama attorney general.

But a videographer, known as a "tracker" in political circles, showed up to record Hubbard speak. Hubbard's campaign took pictures of the videographer, and identified him as Chris Cato from South Carolina. Cato works for America Rising LLC, which disseminates its videos through its political action committee, America Rising PAC.

The PAC is a Republican-leaning organization that seeks to research and record Democrats during this election season. -- Warning sent to Alabama's Democratic county chairmen: You are being tracked |

August 17, 2014

GOP tracker following Dem's AG candidate reports: The attorney general's race heated up last week as a national Republican political action committee made clear they would continue tracking Democratic candidates around Alabama. ...

Hubbard's campaign took advantage of the opportunity to "track the tracker." The Hubbard campaign even got pictures of the tracker's ID, which lists him as a photographer for "America Rising LLC."

The America Rising PAC is a GOP opposition-research firm that employs trackers to follow Democrats and report back with any potentially embarrassing statements.

Politico reported the PAC was founded by former Mitt Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades and former Republican National Committee research director Joe Pounder. The group operates like a news website, posting videos and hoping they go viral on their own. It appears some of the videos are also shared from other sites -- anything that achieves the PAC's goals to embarrass Democrats. -- Democrats, attorney general candidate Joe Hubbard get their party crashed by video tracker sent by Republican PAC |

July 6, 2014

"Auburn resident uses math to lead political campaigns"

The Opelika-Auburn News reports: It is not uncommon for John Pudner to work 18 hours during an average day--mostly from his home in Auburn--writing up political campaign plans for politicians and analyzing data.

However, it is this environment where Pudner seems to thrive, gathering statistics and using them to positive results through Concentric Direct, a firm he founded that does strategy work for political campaigns across the country and statistics work for sports teams. ...

Pudner also said political strategy has come a long way in becoming more concerned with raw data and statistics in recent years.

“The biggest difference 20 years ago was that they wanted your intuition,” Pudner said. “People wanted to hire you to figure out ‘what do you think will make people want to vote for me.’"

In fact, Pudner remembers when people began to use more statistical analysis for political functions. In 2003, Pudner was working on a campaign to defeat the referendum vote on Alabama Amendment 1, a tax package by then Gov. Bob Riley to lessen taxes on the poor, but was argued as raising taxes on businesses and families. Leading up to the vote, Pudner and his team began using automated voice message systems to call people and collect data. The referendum was eventually defeated. -- Auburn resident uses math to lead political campaigns - News

July 4, 2014

Trouble in the GOP over chairman encouraging candidates for state committee reports: An internecine battle is brewing in the Alabama Republican Party, which last month appointed a committee to investigate the large number of newcomers who challenged incumbents on the party's Executive Committee.

Some party members believe Chairman Bill Armistead improperly recruited candidates to run for party positions and surreptitiously accepted donations from the Alabama Education Association and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Armistead denies both allegations.

Political consultant Baron Coleman said he agreed, at Armistead's request in February, to run for a party seat from Lowndes County and to help recruit other candidates from across the state to oppose members from the "Mike Hubbard-Bob Riley wing" of the party.

"He had a list in front him -- all of the Executive Committee members," recalled Coleman, whose candidacy the party ultimately invalidated based on a residency issue. "He was trying to line up candidates to run against members who were not friendly to him." -- Questionable donations, allegations of improper candidate recruitment fuel Alabama GOP strife |

June 28, 2014

Is this the best campaign ad of the year in Alabama? reports:
In a state known for its less-than-high-road political commercials, an Alabama House candidate is earning high praise for his ad urging voters to "think outside the box."

Darius Foster, Republican candidate for House District 56, released his ad earlier this month. The 1 minute video shows people of all races reading bio information about Foster, who is black.

In the ad, Foster said he decided to make the video to share the facts "while challenging stereotypes."

"In a nutshell, I am not monolithic. I am many things. I can't be put in a box," he says in the ad. -- Watch what pundits are describing as the best campaign ad from an Alabama politician this year |

June 4, 2014

Social media skullduggery reports: Someone claiming to be incumbent County Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee contacted a reporter Saturday via LinkedIn asking to "set the record straight" on a campaign issue, but the message did not come from Menefee. ..

On Saturday, an reporter received a message from the imposter that included a link to a WAFF story about an ADEM citation about a hazardous dump site. The message said: "I found this and thought you might be interested. I want to set the record straight. My cell phone number is 256-XXX-XXX. -- Stanley"

However, when the reporter called Menefee at the cell phone number provided, Menefee said he had not left a message and was advised by an attorney not to discuss the issue. ...

Heather Wilson, who worked on Menefee's campaign, said she thinks the imposter is the same person who set up a fake Facebook account in Menefee's name a year ago. The person apparently wanted reporters to call Menefee and get the dump issue in the media, she said. -- Was fake social media account used to influence Limestone County Commission chairman race? |

May 15, 2014

Hubbard alleges dirty tricks against him reports: Mike Hubbard, speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, is calling for help to get to the bottom of what he says are harassing phone calls, made all over Alabama.

The calls are not just going out to people in his East Alabama district, but also to people around the state. Hubbard says the calls consist of a scratchy recording of one of his campaign advertisements, but the ad was obviously recorded by some handheld device. ...

Hubbard himself says he has received the calls about 40 times. Hubbard believes the calls may be trying to irritate voters before his re-election effort on June 3. Hubbard, a Republican, faces Sandy Toomer in the GOP primary for the District 79 nomination. ...

So Hubbard has filed a complaint with the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission. Hubbard said pre-recorded phone calls made to cellphones violate federal law. And state electioneering needs to have a disclaimer too, Hubbard said. -- Speaker Mike Hubbard seeks answers on harassing phone calls |

April 30, 2014

GOP chairman criticizes 'Gang of Four' ad reports: Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said today he did not like what he said was the attacking style of the "Gang of Four" campaign ad run by Chad Mathis in the District 6 congressional race.

"I am disappointed to see one congressional candidate in the 6th District take on four others by name and blasting them," Armistead said. ...

Armistead said competition is beneficial, but that candidates should focus on their differences on issues and their records. He said Mathis' ad veers from that and into attack mode. -- Alabama Republican Chairman Bill Armistead says Chad Mathis 'Gang of Four' ad not good for GOP |

[See Mathis' website]

"Stop Common Core PAC amasses $700,000; targets GOP leaders in Alabama" reports: Opponents of Alabama's GOP establishment have pumped $700,000 into the brand new Stop Common Core PAC -- a group that Republican leaders say masks support from "cowardly liberals."

All of that money arrived over the last five weeks from a single source, the Foundation for Limited Government. That's a seven-month-old group run by former state lawmaker John Rice of Opelika.

Rice, who is also chair of the Stop Common Core PAC, has not disclosed the foundation backers.

"The foundation members are anonymous," said Rice today. "That's the reason the Legislature set it up that way." -- Stop Common Core PAC amasses $700,000; targets GOP leaders in Alabama |

April 27, 2014

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign reports: It's that time of year again. The time when candidates for local, state and federal offices rush out to streets and roads to find the best yard sign locations.

Some will find hot spots in neighborhoods or business centers, once they get permission from property owners.

Other candidates, and their supporters, will put campaign yard signs in the rights-of-way that are controlled by the state of Alabama or municipal governments. Those signs will come down sooner or later, says one state official, and they will be thrown in the garbage.

Often candidates blame thieves and rivals for the removals, as Republican Dale Peterson, candidate for Alabama agriculture commissioner, famously did in 2010. -- Wrong-of-way: Yard sign laws often ignored by candidates for office |

April 18, 2014

"6 charts explain fundraising in District 6 GOP primary" reports: What campaign has the most individual contributors? What percentage of those contributors are from Alabama? Who has the largest average donation, and the smallest average donation?

This week, the Republican candidates in the race for Alabama's 6th Congressional district filed their April quarterly fundraising reports with the Federal Elections Commission. These six graphs will show you what they raised, and who and where it came from.

[Follow the link to see the 6 charts.] -- 6 charts explain fundraising in District 6 GOP primary: Who raised the most, where did it come from? |

"AEA funds opponent of Sen. Del Marsh, foes of other supporters of Alabama Accountability Act" reports: The state teachers' organization is fighting private school tax credits in court and the architect of the tax credits at the ballot box.

The Alabama Education Association's political action committee filed a campaign finance report showing the largest donation it gave in March was $50,000 to Democratic state Senate candidate Taylor Stewart, an Anniston attorney and son of former U.S. Sen. Donald Stewart of Anniston. Taylor Stewart is opposing Republican Sen. Del Marsh of Anniston, who was the chief architect of the Alabama Accountability Act. ...

The campaign finance report from AEA's PAC shows it gave large amounts last month to opponents of other legislators who voted for the act.

It gave $25,000 each to Republican Bruce Whitlock, a Cullman County store owner and bus driver, and former Democratic state Rep. Angelo "Doc" Mancuso, a Decatur physician. Both are running against Republican Sen. Paul Bussman of Cullman.

AEA's PAC also donated $25,000 each to Democrat Terry Jones, an educator from Hazel Green who is running against Republican Rep. Jim Patterson of Meridianville; educator Bobby Jackson of Athens, who is opposing Republican Rep. Dan Williams of Athens in the GOP primary; and Republican Ginger Fletcher, who is challenging Republican Rep. Kerry Rich of Albertville. -- AEA funds opponent of Sen. Del Marsh, foes of other supporters of Alabama Accountability Act |

April 17, 2014

"Ethics Commission asked to investigate PSC Commissioner Dunn staffer for misuse of state office" reports: In a letter sent today to the Alabama Ethics Commission, Tuscaloosa coal miner John Box asks officials to investigate what he describes as "misuse of state office" by an employee of Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn.

Mr. Box specifically asks the Ethics Commission to review two examples of alleged misconduct by Dunn's chief of staff David Rountree, under the auspices of his boss.

Rountree recently conducted a television interview on behalf of Commissioner Dunn, who is currently running for re-election.

"Not only is Mr. Rountree there during work hours under the title Chief of Staff in Commissioner Terry Dunn?s office, he is also discussing which type of political donations the Terry Dunn Campaign will accept," Box wrote in his Ethics Commission letter. "He can either be a Chief of Staff or a campaign spokesman, but he can't be both."

Box's second complaint centered around Rountree's use of a taxpayer-funded cell phone to conduct business for a Political Action Committee he launched last year. -- Ethics Commission asked to investigate PSC Commissioner Dunn staffer for misuse of state office - Yellowhammer News

Yellowhammer attached Box's letter.

April 6, 2014

AEA backing Republican candidates in North Alabama

The TimesDaily reports: The Alabama Education Association's political action committee gave major contributions to three candidates challenging two Republican lawmakers from north Alabama, according to March campaign finance reports.

The PAC gave $25,000 each to a Democrat and a Republican challenging Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman. It also gave $25,000 to a Republican challenging Rep. Dan Williams, R-Athens.

"We give to Republicans all over the state," AEA chief Henry Mabry said.

He said the AEA believes Republican Bobby Jackson, who is challenging Williams, is a pro-education candidate. Mabry criticized Williams for his education-related votes during the past four years, including his support of the Alabama Accountability Act.

Disclosure: I do legal work for the AEA. -- AEA backs challengers - TimesDaily: News

"Is the AEA behind attack mailers against Sen. Bill Holtzclaw?"

Dale Jackson, a radio talk-show host, has a disjointed attacked beginning with: The Alabama Foundation for Limited Government is not a conservative group...

Anytime a brand new political group pops up out of nowhere with an absurd amount of money, people should be concerned and careful about what they believe.

As with most of these groups, we will find out who is behind this later but we already know it’s the AEA. -- Is the AEA behind attack mailers against Sen. Bill Holtzclaw? | Disclaimer: I do legal work for the AEA.

(Read the comments following this initial rant. There is a lively discussion about the true source of these ads.)

"The Gang of Four" reports: In District 6 Republican race, claws come out in new Chad Mathis radio ad |

In a new radio ad released Thursday by Alabama District 6 Congressional candidate Chad Mathis, a voiceover rails against four of his opponents, calling them "The Gang of Four."

"They're called the 'Gang of Four.' They say they're running for Congress to clean up Washington, but in reality they'll fit right in," the voiceover says, while ominous music plays in the background.

The "Gang of Four" is identified as Scott Beason, Will Brooke, Paul DeMarco, and Gary Palmer, who, like Mathis, are Republican candidates looking to fill the seat of U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, who is retiring at the end of this term. --

July 17, 2013

"Big donors" to be handled centrally by GOP legislative leaders

The Alabama Political Reporter reports: The Alabama Political Reporter has obtained an email from Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) sent to fellow republican senate members, telling them to "get started earlier as opposed to later" on their campaign fundraising; but only from local donors.

This letter, and similar communications, has senators privately grumbling over financial road-blocks, claiming that they are being set-up by Marsh and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

The rank-in-file members say they are being told to "stay out of Montgomery" when it comes to raising money for their campaigns. Marsh and Hubbard have made it clear that they will be handling the "Big Donors," legislators complain. ...

By keeping legislators off the Montgomery money train, Hubbard, Marsh and Riley guarantee they remain the masters of the political universe in Alabama. -- Read the whole story -->Editorial: Message to Republican Legislators: Big Donors Off-Limits

June 24, 2013

Telling the "real Republicans" from the infiltrators

Alabama Political Reporter reports on Speaker Hubbard's incumbent-protection plan, saying "We cannot let those entities infiltrate and highjack our primary." The article then list 5 house members and 3 senators who ran as Democrats and switched parties after the election. The article includes this:

Most interestingly, though, is Senator Tom Whatley (R-Auburn), who supported the Democrats long before he ever became a Republican.

Whatley donated a significant amount of money--$2,300--to the Obama campaign in July, 2008. This donation occurred around the same time that Whatley applied for an appointment, under the Obama administration to become the state director of USDA Rural Development in Alabama.

Whatley did not get the appointment, and many believe it was due to inaccuracies on his resume. Shortly after, Whatley joined the Republican Party and ran against Senator Ted Little, a 32-year incumbent, riding into the seat on the Republican landslide of 2010. -- Read the whole article --> Hubbard's "real republican" incumbents include Obama donor and party switchers

June 22, 2013

Hubbard seeks to preserve Purity of Essesnce of the GOP reports: Rep. Mike Hubbard sounds more like a man about to run a counterintelligence operation than the speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.

Hubbard was at The Club Friday speaking to a meeting of Birmingham Young Republicans where he warned them that the "folks in Montgomery who used to run things" are making plans to take back their power and they are preparing to do it by pretending to be Republicans. ...

Hubbard identified the Alabama Education Association among other Democratic Party leaning groups who are at work on plans to reduce the GOP majorities in the House and state Senate. ...

"I'm telling you the race will be determined in the primary. The other guys know that," Hubbard said. "They know they can't win as a Democrat in a general election." -- Read the whole story --> Mike Hubbard readies to defend the GOP majority against faux Republicans |

April 13, 2013

Another early attack on a GOP leader

The Alabama Political Reporter reports: It seems campaign season came a little early in Senate District 12. Last week, an unflattering "push-card" concerning Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) was circulated in the Anniston area. There had been reports of such a card showing up at the State House Thursday, but efforts to obtain the card proved fruitless. The mailer we received was said to have been received in the Senate 12 District as well.

With over a year to go before the 2014 election heats up, someone is firing a big gun across Marsh's bow. Cited in the mailer are stories concerning Marsh's solicitation of $350,000 from the Poarch Creek Indians, as well as how the money flowed back in to Senate campaigns.

When reports of Marsh?s solicitation broke months ago, it was rumored that Marsh has begged the tribe to say he didn?t ask for the money. Not only did Marsh make the trips to Atmore to ask for the tribe's money, he wanted the PCI to cover it up. Marsh must have believed that such a campaign would be forthcoming.

When the Alabama Political Reporter published the story, Marsh was given ample time to respond. However, the only response we received were in the form of threats from Phillip Bryan, Marsh?s Chief of Staff. -- Read the whole story --> Push Card Hits Marsh with Hard Facts

Campaigning about campaign-finance violations

Alabama Political Reporter reports: On Tuesday voters in Lee County received a campaign push-card that looks like an advertisement for a B-Movie or a Quentin Tarantino noir parody.

The mailer features Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard as "The Graftmaster." Hubbard is currently under a grand jury investigation for campaign-finance-related issues, some dealing with his printing company Craftmasters. Obviously "Graftmaster" is an ironic play-of-words on one of Mr. Hubbard most prized businesses.

A study of campaign finance records for the 2010 election cycle shows that Hubbard?s business interests were paid over $1,000,000 in campaign expenditures from at least 18 GOP candidates and at least 4 political action committees (PAC). This does not include the almost $800,000 spent with Majority Strategies for GOP printing that was sub-contracted to Hubbard's Craftmasters as reported by Craftmaster is just one of Hubbard?s businesses that grew out of his relationship with Auburn University.-- Read the whole story --> New Campaign Targets Hubbard as "Graftmaster"

February 3, 2013

"Bill Armistead beats Matt Fridy and the biggest names in state GOP to win re-election as party leader" reports: Bill Armistead has been re-elected chairman of the Alabama Republican Party beating off a challenge by Matt Fridy that had been supported by the biggest names in the state party.

The final vote of the GOP Executive Committee was Armistead 221 votes to Fridy's 159 votes.

Republican Gov. Robert Bentley, Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Hubbard, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman, among others, had all supported Fridy in the race.

Armistead's victory represents the second time in two years that he has beat back some of the biggest powers in the GOP to win the leadership post of his party. -- Read the whole story --> Bill Armistead beats Matt Fridy and the biggest names in state GOP to win re-election as party leader |

For the article getting reactions to Armistead's win, see "Fences to mend among Republicans after vote over party chairmanship"

October 28, 2012

"Ariz. think tank drafts wording for 2 Ala. amendments"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: An Arizona institute said it drafted the model language for two state constitutional amendments on Alabama's November ballot.

The Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank devoted to advancing the ideas of former Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, wrote the language for Amendment 6, aimed at blocking the Affordable Care Act, and Amendment 7, which would attempt to stave off any federal attempts to make it easier for workers to unionize in the state. ...

Amendment 6 would forbid any Alabamians from being compelled to “participate in a health care system.” Under the Affordable Care Act, those without health insurance would be required to buy insurance, starting in 2014. The law would provide a sliding scale of subsidies to help purchase insurance, up to $88,000 a year for a family of four. ...

Amendment 7 would require any ballots for unionizing to take place via secret ballot. The measure was intended to stave off federal legislation that would have allowed unionization to take place via “card check.” The federal legislation is dead for now. -- Read the whole story --> Ariz. think tank drafts wording for 2 Ala. amendments | The Montgomery Advertiser |

October 20, 2012

Former Secretary of State Worley pleads guilty

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The vice chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, former Secretary of State Nancy Worley, was fined $100 Friday for soliciting campaign support from her office staff during her last re-election bid.

Her attorney, James Anderson, said Worley entered a "best interest" plea to one misdemeanor count Friday, and prosecutors agreed to drop four other misdemeanors and five felony charges.

Worley had been scheduled to go to trial Monday before Montgomery Circuit Judge Truman Hobbs, who levied the fine.

The "best interest" plea that Worley entered is rarely used in Alabama and is different from a no contest plea. With a best interest plea, a defendant does not admit to doing anything wrong, but agrees that a guilty plea is in her best interest. -- Read the whole story --> Former secretary of state Worley pleads guilty to soliciting support from campaign office staff | The Montgomery Advertiser |

September 1, 2012


Cheerleadergate: Fairhope cheerleaders washed cars at mayor's campaign event |
The Mobile Press-Register ( reports:
A "Family Fun Day" put on by Mayor Tim Kant on Aug. 25 has become the most controversial campaign event of the municipal election cycle. At issue is the presence of Fairhope High School cheerleaders washing cars in exchange for donations.

At least some of them wore campaign buttons and held signs in support of the mayor's re-election campaign, raising questions about the propriety of students participating in a partisan campaign event while clearly representing their public school. ...

Family Fun Day was a highly visible event at McArthur’s Auto Service just east of the public library. It included hot dogs, a clown — and free car washes.

Kant, himself a 1973 graduate of Fairhope High, said "one of my supporters" asked the cheerleaders if they wanted to wash cars in exchange for donations. With funds for public education so short in many areas, cheerleaders, athletes and other school organizations are seeking to raise money for their activities, he said. -- Read the whole story -->

Charge of campaigning by firefighter

The Birmingham News ( reports: Graysville Fire Chief Jeff Wesley, on administrative leave since announcing a run for mayor, resigned today.

Wesley, hired as chief in 2004, said he would not have been able to serve under newly-elected Mayor Mary Sue Morgan. Wesley said Morgan had made it difficult for him to do his job during her time as a member of the Graysville City Council. ...

Among the disagreements between Morgan and Wesley is an allegation Morgan wanted two Graysville firefighters disciplined for campaigning for Wesley.

One of those firefighters, Wesley said, had a campaign sign in his personal vehicle in a private parking lot. Wesley said he did not know how the other firefighter had campaigned for him. -- Read the whole story --> Graysville Fire Chief Jeff Wesley has resigned |

Voter bribery alledged in Daphne

The Mobile Press-Register ( reports: A losing City Council candidate in this week's municipal election has accused his opponent of using candy and stickers to improperly win votes and said elections officials refused to enforce campaign laws.

Gary Reyes, who finished second in a three-way race, said he intends to contact the Alabama Attorney General's Office about the conduct of Tuesday's election. He said winner Randy Fry and his supporters handed out candy to voters as they were walking into the Daphne Civic Center to cast their ballots. ...

Fry, an insurance executive who avoided a runoff by three votes in unofficial returns, said he handed out snack-sized chocolate bars affixed with campaign stickers. He said the token giveaway does not constitute bribery. -- Read the whole article --> Losing Daphne City Council candidate accuses opponent of bribing voters -- with candy |

July 4, 2012

Trial lawyers backing Moore

The Birmingham News ( reports: Roy Moore has the Alabama GOP's backing as its chief justice nominee, but campaign disclosures show the unconventional candidate is getting substantial funding from a major foe of mainstream Republican jurists: plaintiff trial lawyers.

Moore's campaign received more than $46,000 in June from individual plaintiff trial lawyers or their firms, 45 percent of its total collections for the month, according to his latest campaign finance report.

Plaintiff lawyers have donated roughly $55,000 of the $310,000 in total that Moore has raised in a bid to regain the seat stripped from him in 2003 when he refused to follow a federal judge's order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a state court building. ...

Since the 1990s, special interests have battled for control of the state high court. Businesses have financially backed Republican candidates, while the plaintiff trial lawyers who sue those businesses have spent big money for Democratic court hopefuls. -- Read the whole story --> Trial lawyers putting their campaign cash behind Roy Moore for Alabama chief justice |

April 22, 2012

Madison Co judges endorse a judicial candidate

The Huntsville Times reports: The Republican Madison County District Court Judge race heated up the generally quiet runoff campaign season after five sitting local judges offered a rare endorsement of a candidate, Huntsville attorney Chris Messervy.

Messervy's opponent, Huntsville attorney Linda Coats, was the top vote-getter in the March 13 primary, winning 48 percent of the vote.

Coats, 44, a veteran GOP official and volunteer, questioned the judges' endorsements and called them "divisive to the party" during a candidate forum Saturday at the Madison County Republican Men's Club breakfast. ...

It is rare for sitting judges to endorse candidates. Alabama's ethics rules for judges say they are allowed to engage in political campaigns, but only in judicial races. -- Read the whole story --> Madison County District Court judge race features rare endorsements by local sitting judges |

March 31, 2012

Broadcaster withdraws from race because of equal-time rule

The Gadsden Times reports: J. Holland, the Republican candidate for Etowah County Probate Judge, on Friday announced his withdrawal from the race. ...

In the release, Holland cited the Federal Communications Commission's equal-time rule, which requires broadcast stations to offer candidates seeking the same elected office 'equal access' to air time, according to the Alabama Broadcasters 2010 Political Broadcasting Guide.

Holland, a radio broadcaster with WGAD, hosts the station's "Contact" program weekdays from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. He said complying with the law, which he called an "unjust" and "discriminatory practice," is "practically impossible for most any broadcaster to uphold and make a living." -- Read the whole story --> Holland withdraws from probate judge race |

March 15, 2012

Campaign for Primary Accountability

The Birmingham News reported earlier this week: The Campaign for Primary Accountability PAC had spent about $160,000 as of Thursday on direct mail, emails, phone calls and television advertising against Bachus. It is still a fraction of the $1.5 million Bachus' campaign spent through the end of February, but the Texas-based political action committee that targets longtime incumbents in normally safe districts of either party has helped Beason by highlighting Bachus' troubles. -- Read the whole story --> Campaign 2012, 6th Congressional District: No cakewalk election for Rep. Spencer Bachus

The Campaign has sent at least seven mailers in the two weeks before the election. I have collected all the mailers I received here.

October 30, 2011

"Alabama remains a big spender in court elections"

The Birmingham News reports: Despite an off-year in spending, the most recent election for Alabama Supreme Court ranked among the nation's costliest judicial races in 2009 and 2010, a study released last week shows.

Candidates in three races for the Alabama Supreme Court in 2010 spent nearly $3.2 million combined, according to the study, The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2009-2010.

By contrast, candidates spent twice that amount in 2004, the last time those court seats were contested. ...

Outside groups spent another $374,000 on TV ads in Alabama to influence the 2010 election, bringing total spending to more than $3.5 million, the report said. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama remains a big spender in court elections |

June 29, 2011

Campaigning, country music and ... bingo

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley said Monday he offered to pay for high-priced campaign events featuring top country music talent like Alan Jackson and Reba McEntire that could raise $500,000 if the state senators he reached out to supported legislation that would help casinos in the state. One of those senators, Wendell Mitchell, was ill, but Gilley pushed a campaign consultant to get him to the Senate that day for a vote.

Gilley also said, on conversations secretly recorded by the FBI, that he was using country stars Randy Owen of Alabama and Jamey Johnson to call senators and push them to vote for the pro-gambling legislation. Owen, who Gilley said was like an ambassador for the project, is a potential witness in the case.

Prosecutors also, in the ongoing federal corruption trial, played a secretly recorded conversation in which a lobbyist for Gilley said Sen. Larry Means is shaking them down and wants $100,000 for his vote.

Means, a former Democratic state senator from Attalla, is one of nine defendants in the federal corruption case that accuses gambling interests of bribing state legislators to support pro-gambling legislation.
-- Read the whole story --> Gilley says he offered campaign events featuring country musicians | The Montgomery Advertiser |

May 28, 2011

Charges reinstated against former Ala. Sec of State

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A state appeals court reinstated five felony charges Friday against former Secretary of State Nancy Worley for a second time.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals issued a 4-0 ruling that said prosecutors presented enough evidence for the charges to stand against the former Democratic officeholder.

The decision means Worley's four-year legal battle is far from over. Her attorney, James Anderson, said he would ask the court to reconsider, and if it doesn't, she would appeal to the state Supreme Court for a second time.

The charges stem from a campaign letter, contribution envelope and bumper sticker that Worley sent to five employees in the secretary of state's office during her unsuccessful race for re-election in 2006. -- Read the whole story --> Court reinstates charges against Worley | The Montgomery Advertiser |

December 8, 2010

Tuscaloosa businessman forgets about copyright law in his political message

The Tuscaloosa News reports: A Tuscaloosa businessman who put up billboards lauding the defeat of Democrats around the country in the Nov. 2 election ran afoul of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. after using the company's logo in the ads.

A spokeswoman for Goodyear said the corporation's legal department has contacted Ronnie Holmes, the Tuscaloosa businessman responsible for the signs. She said Holmes agreed to take them down. ...

Holmes is listed on the Alabama Secretary of State's website as the incorporating agent, president and secretary of Tuscaloosa Tire and Service Center Inc., which operates three Goodyear stores in Tuscaloosa and one in Northport. ...

The signs contain a caricature of a crying Obama and bear the message: "Minus 80 Democratic Congressman (sic), Senators & Governors ... Now That's a Goodyear!" with the company name spelled out in the familiar yellow font and the winged shoe. -- Read the whole article and see the sign --> Goodyear takes issue with anti-Democrat billboards |

December 7, 2010

Arab, AL: no more political sponorships of high school football; will anti-sign ordinance be enforced?

The Arab Tribune reports: Political candidates can no longer sponsor Arab High School football games, and Mayor Gary Beam will discuss with the council what to do about political signs at polling places on election day.

As it is, political signs are banned from city rights-of-way, according to Arab's sign ordinance. But over the years it really hasn't been enforced, especially on election day when candidates line the rights-of-way in front of the Arab Recreation Center and Arab Community Center polling places.

Because of a complaint on Nov. 2, however, Mayor Gary Beam says he will discuss the matter with the council. ...

At two football games this year, Wes Long and Clay Scofield, successful candidates for the Alabama House and Senate respectively, each sponsored a football game. They paid $1,000 each to the football program in exchange for being allowed to set up a table inside the stadium and get a public address announcement. -- Read the whole story --> Politics out at games; Beam to ask about signs

December 3, 2010

Huntsville: proposal to confiscate illegal signs

The Huntsville Times reports: Huntsville City Councilman Bill Kling says he wants to invoke the "death penalty" on campaign signs placed too close to the street.

During this year's elections, city code enforcement officers confiscated hundreds of rogue political signs from road shoulders and medians.

Kling said candidates know they can go to the Gates Avenue parking garage across from City Hall and retrieve their signs from a trash pile.

"It's kind of like a game," Kling said Wednesday. "They pick them up and they're on their way."

At tonight's council meeting, Kling said he will propose that the city destroy illegally placed campaign signs beginning with the 2012 election. -- Read the whole story --> Illegally placed campaign signs may get the "death penalty" in Huntsville |

October 30, 2010

Alabama: is write-in campaign a dirty trick?

The Mobile Press Register reports: Republican Robert Bentley's gubernatorial campaign said Friday that his Democratic opponent, Ron Sparks, is behind web sites promoting write-in votes for Bentley's former GOP rival, Bradley Byrne.

"This is an obvious attempt to suppress Republican turnout," said Angi Smith, Bentley's campaign manager. "It is the latest in a long list of deceptive acts by our opponent."

Sparks spokesman Taylor Bright vigorously denied the charge, calling it a “set-up” and a “desperate, dirty trick” by the Bentley campaign.

“We had nothing to do with this,” Bright said in an e-mail. -- Read the whole story --> Bentley camp: Sparks behind Byrne write-in site |

October 27, 2010

Alabama: Justice Tom Parker demands removal of slanderous ad about his taxes

The Mobile Press Register reports: Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker today demanded that his Democratic opponent pull a "slanderous and defamatory" TV ad that claims Parker does not pay his taxes.

The ad for Mac Parsons, a judge in the Bessemer division of Jefferson County Circuit Court, accuses Parker of having "thousands in tax liens" and "years of unpaid taxes" while he has served on the state's highest court.

An attorney for Parker, Al Agricola, sent a letter today to Parsons, threatening to sue his campaign for slander and file charges with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission. ...

Party officials said the liens were placed against the estate of Parker’s father, Thomas F. Parker III.

But Parsons’ campaign said Parker is responsible for liens filed against the estate because he was the executor and one of the beneficiaries. The justice’s father died in 1983, two decades or more before the liens were filed.

The Parsons campaign provided documentation showing federal liens totaling $5,650.10 issued in June 2003 for tax years 1999 through 2001. The federal government also issued a pair of liens in October 2005 totaling $253.04 for tax years 1997 and 2002. -- Read the whole story --> Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker demands opponent pull 'slanderous' TV ad on taxes |

October 10, 2010

Alabama: GOP question (lack of) financial disclosures by new PAC

The Huntsville Times reports: State Republicans have raised questions about what they call a lack of financial disclosures by a political action committee linked to the Democratic Party.

The head of the Front Door Democracy PAC, however, said there's been no wrongdoing because the PAC isn't involved in campaigns.

"We're a political action committee, but we don't do any candidate-specific work or we don't give money to candidates," said Bradley Davidson, who founded the PAC, which lists its address as Homewood.

But two things about the PAC caught the eye of the state Republican Party, according to spokesman Philip Bryan. The first was the PAC's website,, which boasts of ties to the Democratic Party. The second was the lack of financial disclosures with the secretary of state. Read the whole story --> Dems PAC draws questions from GOP |

September 24, 2010

Google shows 2010 political polling data on maps

Google announces: How will the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans shake out after the elections on November 2? Many political experts and news sources track and revise predictions, but until now it's been hard to compare perspectives. We've worked with some of the top names in politics -- Cook, Rothenberg, CQ-Roll Call, and RealClearPolitics -- to make it easier to track the daily changes in the political landscape. -- 2010 U.S. Election Ratings - Google

September 11, 2010

Alabama: former Sec of State wins in Ala Supreme Court

The Huntsville Times reports: The state Supreme Court today handed former Secretary of State Nancy Worley a victory in her battle to overturn five felony charges that accuse her of using her office to influence the votes of five employees in her office in 2006.

The high court said the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals erred in not reviewing the evidence under the same conditions that Montgomery County Circuit Judge Truman M. Hobbs Jr., did when he threw out the charges. ...

The felony charges against Worley stemmed from a law that forbids a public official from using his or her authority or position to try to influence the vote or political action of anyone.

The charges against Worley grew out of campaign letters, campaign contribution envelopes and bumper stickers sent to the five workers.

In her letter -- on campaign stationery -- Worley wrote, "I will be honored if you will attach the enclosed bumper sticker to your vehicle's bumper or rear window." She also wrote that "if you chose to support another candidate, you have every right to make that decision without any problems from me." Read the whole story --> Ex-secretary of state Nancy Worley wins victory in state Supreme Court ruling |

August 22, 2010

Montgomery Co, Ala: GOP push poll upsetting the Dem candidate

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A contender for a local seat in the Alabama House of Represen­tatives is up in arms about a poll run by Republicans in his dis­trict that he said inaccurately tells people he defended corrupt politicians and sued local busi­nesses as an attorney.

Democrat Joe Hubbard is challenging Republican state Rep. David Grimes for the Dis­trict 73 seat.

Hubbard has voiced his con­cerns that the question asking if people would be more or less likely to support him if they knew "Joe Hubbard is a lawyer who has sued local businesses and has defended many corrupt Montgomery politicians."

Hubbard said he has never represented Montgomery pub­lic officials or sued local busi­nesses. He considers it a push poll -- a type of poll that, instead of being done to obtain opinions, asks loaded and unfounded questions that contain negative information about a candidate in an attempt to influence vot­ers. Read the whole story --> District 73 candidate upset over questions in GOP poll | | Montgomery Advertiser

August 19, 2010

Bessemer, Ala: mayoral candidate uses fake photo and endorsement; campaign manager confesses to hoax

The Birmingham News reported on 18 August: Bessemer Councilwoman Dorothy Davidson is distributing a flier for her mayoral campaign that includes the top photo. Davidson claims Alabama football coach Nick Saban is endorsing her campaign, but the Alabama athletics staff says no endorsement was made. Davidson acknowledged Tuesday night a photo shown below of Saban and his wife, Terry, from 2007 was altered to include her.

For a political hopeful in Alabama, it could be the ultimate endorsement -- a show of support from University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

Bessemer Councilwoman Dorothy Davidson, who is running for mayor of the city, claims she secured Saban's endorsement of her campaign three weeks ago. Davidson printed it on a color campaign flier that shows her and the coach smiling side by side on a golf course.

But University of Alabama athletics officials on Tuesday said there is no such endorsement. And the photo of Davidson and Saban together is not real, but digitally altered from another photo. ...

Davidson, when contacted about the campaign ad and photo on Tuesday afternoon, at first said the image of her and Saban together was real and taken about three weeks ago. However, when presented later with a 2007 photo of Saban and his wife that appears to be the base photo onto which Davidson's image was added, the candidate acknowledged that her image was digitally added to the 2007 photo. Read the whole story --> Bessemer mayoral candidate Dorothy Davidson claims Nick Saban endorsement, passing out fliers with altered photo |

And on 19 August: The man who has been managing Bessemer Councilwoman Dorothy Davidson's campaign for mayor this afternoon said he tricked Davidson into believing she had an endorsement from University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

Kevin Morris, 35, said he is responsible for the campaign flier that features a digitally altered picture of Davidson and Saban and touts an endorsement by the coach.

Morris said he told Davidson the photo of the coach and his wife, Terry, was actually of Saban and his mother. He said he told Davidson that Saban had OK'd the altering of the photograph.

"I lied," Morris said. "She (Davidson) didn't do anything wrong." -- Read the whole story -->

July 20, 2010

Alabama: ADC files judicial-inquiry complaint against circuit judge over campaign flyer

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The Alabama Democratic Conference has filed a complaint against Circuit Court Judge Patricia Warner over what the organization's chairman said are questionable and misleading campaign tactics.

Joe Reed, chairman of the ADC, has filed a complaint with the Judicial Inquiry Commission, alleging that a campaign flier produced by Warner as part of her re-election campaign improperly implied the state organization had endorsed her.

Reed said the action was a violation of the state's fair campaign practices law and the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics. ...

A complaint to the Judicial Inquiry Commission is serious business. The commission's mandated function is to investigate allegations of misconduct in office, violations of the Canons of Judicial Ethics or of disability made against any judge of the court, according to a document of the state Records Commission. -- Read the whole article --> ADC files complaint against judge over ad | | Montgomery Advertiser

June 10, 2010

Alabama: FCC violation leads to one candidate contributing to opponent

The Sand Mountain Reporter reports: Alabama House District 26 Republican Candidate Kerry Rich contributed $250 to competitor Peggie Haney?s campaign, according to reports filed with the Secretary of State?s Office.

Rich said he was required to make the contribution to Haney?s campaign to compensate her for radio time because he remained on the air at his radio station 88.5 WJIA after entering the race for the seat. ...

According to the FCC, if a radio station allows one candidate to broadcast over its airways, all candidates are entitled to an equal opportunity to broadcast on radio stations and the station cannot censor what any of the candidate’s ads says.

But, there is no requirement for a candidate to go off the air once he starts campaigning for office. Read the whole story --> Sand Mountain Reporter

June 5, 2010

Alabama: Byrne complains about a robocall from AEA to its members

The Mobile Press-Register reports: A recent automated call from the Alabama state teachers' union reminding its members that the Republican primary is open to all voters drew criticism Friday from Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne.

Byrne, who has publicly feuded with the Alabama Education Association, said the calls were meant to sabotage the GOP runoff and keep him out of the general election. ...

Wade Perry, who heads the AEA's Mobile chapter, disputed Byrne's claim that the call was meant to sabotage him.

Alabama Education Association President Anita Gibson, who recorded the message, simply told recipients that the Republican primary was open, Perry said. Recipients were then asked which runoff they would vote in, if they planned to vote at all, he said. Read the whole story --> Bradley Byrne: Automated calls by AEA meant to sabotage GOP runoff |

May 22, 2010

Alabama: postmaster reminds that postage is due on campaign flyers

The Opelika-Auburn News reports: Opelika Postmaster Terry Dozier reported Friday that some political flyers have been distributed in area mailboxes without using postage.

"It's not widespread, but we've seen a little," he said. "When one candidate does it, everyone wants to know why they can't do it."

Candidates' names were not given.

Section PO11.2.2 of the Domestic Mail Manual reads, 'Any mailable matter not bearing postage found in, upon, attached to, supported by, or hung from the private mail receptacles is subject to the payment of the same postage as would be paid if carried by mail." -- Read the whole story --> Postmaster: Campaign flyers distributed without paying postage | Opelika-Auburn News

I wonder when Glenn Beck will denounce the postal monopoly our right to campaign without paying a "Stamp Tax."

May 14, 2010

Alabama: a charge of cyber-squatting

The Arab Tribune reports: Ed Teal, Republican candidate for Marshall County Sheriff has filed a federal civil lawsuit for "cyber squatting."

Teal claims that Marshall County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Doug Gibbs "cyber squatted" by registering numerous website domain names containing all or part of Teal's name. The action is not a criminal act.

The lawsuit basically says that Gibbs bought 19 website addresses that Teal could have used for his campaign, such as "" -- Read the whole story --> Teal suing chief deputy for blocking web names

Note: "Arab" is pronounced A'-rab.

May 2, 2010

Alabama: "AEA is hedging its bets in race for Alabama governor"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A teachers' union headed by Democrats bankrolling the True Republican PAC? And that PAC blanketing the airwaves with ads attacking Republican gubernatorial front-runner Bradley Byrne for associating with - Democrats?

Are you confused?

Not if you are a close student of Alabama politics.

"It is interesting, but it is not confusing," said former Congressman Glen Browder, a retired Jacksonville State University political science professor. "It all makes sense for somebody who knows how this game is played." Read the whole story --> AEA is hedging its bets in race for Alabama governor |

March 19, 2010

Google-powered elections

Marketplace reports: Welcome to the world of Google-powered elections. The company calls that tactic a network blast. In Massachusetts, Willington says those blasts cost about $25,000 a day. Far less than TV and worth every penny.

WILLINGTON: People think Google is a search engine, that's just one part of it. It's the new TV. It's not a niche media market anymore, it is mass media.

Most political campaigns spend at most 3 to 4 percent of their budget on online ads. The Brown campaign spent almost 10 percent -- about $250,000. It's the biggest success so far in Google's campaign to rule the online political advertising business. In 2007, the company started a small team to help politicians tweak their messages online. -- Read or listen to the whole story --> A future with Google-powered elections | Marketplace From American Public Media

January 13, 2010

Alabama House committee reviews 4 election bills today

Four bills are up for hearing today in the Alabama House Committee on Constitution and Elections:

HB 30 -- Elections, overseas absentee voting, Electronic Overseas Voting Advisory Committee, established to advise whether secure electronic means of voting available, duties of absentee election manager, overseas voter certificate required, Secretary of State to implement rules

HB 85 -- Campaign contributions, PAC to PAC transfers, prohibited, Sec. 17-5-15 am'd.

HB 129 -- Electioneering communications and paid political advertising, disclosure of source of funding required, exceptions, contributions by political committees further provided for, Secs. 17-5-2, 17-5-8, 17-5-12 am'd.; Act 2009-751, 2009 Reg. Sess. am'd.

HB 145 -- Elections, write-in candidates, registration with judge of probate or Secretary of State prior to election required, compliance with Fair Campaign Practices Act and State Ethics Law required, Sec. 17-6-28 am'd

Note -- to view the Alison system, you must be using Internet Explorer or the IE Tab add-on to Firefox.

November 14, 2009

Alabama: Charges against Worley reinstated

The Huntsville Times reports: A state appeals court Friday reinstated five felony charges against former Secretary of State Nancy Worley, who is accused of using her office to influence the votes of five employees in her office.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Truman M. Hobbs Jr. ruled on July 11, 2007, that the law under which Worley was indicted was "overly broad and unconstitutional" as applied in her case. ...

The felony charges stemmed from a law forbidding a public official from using his or her authority or position to try to influence the vote or political action of anyone.

The charges against Worley grew out of campaign letters, campaign contribution envelopes and bumper stickers sent to the five workers.

In her letter - on campaign stationery - Worley wrote, "I will be honored if you will attach the enclosed bumper sticker to your vehicle's bumper or rear window." She also wrote that "if you chose to support another candidate, you have every right to make that decision without any problems from me." -- Read the whole article --> State appeals court reinstates5 felony charges against Worley -

September 30, 2009

Alabama: email on county server may have violated state law

The Birmingham News reports: Jefferson County officials are asking that an e-mail from an employee running for a seat on the County Commission be investigated to see if state laws prohibiting the use of county property for political activity were violated.

County attorneys say Ed Henson, the county's chief deputy tax assessor, sent a message Sept. 23 from his county e-mail account to "all users" announcing he would be on leave and then retiring from the tax assessor's office. It also said he would be a "candidate for the Jefferson County commissioner in District 4."

Henson said he filed papers Tuesday to run for the seat now held by County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins.

The e-mail has been turned over to the district attorney's office, said assistant county attorney Charles Wagner. -- Read the whole story --> Jefferson County seeks district attorney probe into chief deputy tax assessor's e-mail -

September 3, 2009

Alabama: Cable company will broadcast candidate forums

The Birmingham News reports: Bright House Cable Networks will broadcast a series of public forums featuring candidates in the Oct. 6 City Council runoff.

The cable operator is responding to a call for fairness from several council challengers who say the sitting council members have an unfair advantage each Tuesday during the televised meetings. ...

Rafferty and Elias Hendricks wrote to the cable company asking for air time to balance exposure given to the council members, saying the council meetings amount to free publicity for the incumbents. -- Read the whole story --> Bright House Cable to broadcast series of public forums featuring candidates in the Oct. 6 City Council runoff -

August 31, 2009

Alabama: Birmingham candidates think outside the box to get inside the tube

The Birmingham News reports: With six weeks before the Birmingham City Council runoff, two of the four candidates seeking to unseat incumbents say televised council meetings are tantamount to free campaign advertising, giving their opponents an unfair advantage.

Kim Rafferty and Elias Hendricks have asked Bright House Networks for free air time to present their platforms on the public access channel because their competitors are on television each Tuesday.

Two other candidates, Sheila Tyson and Leroy Bandy, said they support the request. ...

"We all know that City Council broadcasts are not to show the business of the city, but to show who is the best actor or actress in a comedy or drama series," Rafferty said. "Whether the incumbent is good or bad on TV, they still have that exposure. We need to level the playing field for everyone." -- Read the whole story at --> Birmingham City Council hopefuls want free TV air time too -

July 30, 2009

Campaigning while on active duty

The Capitol Fax Blog reports the Rep. Mark Kirk has tweeted at least twice about his then-current active duty in the Navy at the National Military Command Center. Capitol Fax has updated the blog post to include the correct DOD regulation, which I reproduced below in full. Flip over to part 4.3.3 to get to the stuff about being a candidate while on active duty ("AD" in military-speak).

Read the whole blog post at --> The Capitol Fax Blog » *** UPDATED x1 *** Should campaign have posted while candidate was on duty?

May 27, 2009

New Hampshire: DOJ drops Tobin case

TPMmuckraker reports: Has the New Hampshire phone-jamming case finally come to a quiet end?

Federal prosecutors have dropped their case against former regional NRSC official James Tobin in connection with a GOP plot to jam the phone lines of the New Hampshire Democratic party on Election Day 2002, reports the Associated Press.

Tobin had been acquitted of involvement in the plot -- for which two GOP consultants have served jail time -- but was being tried on new charges of lying to investigators. A court dismissed those charges, and last week an appeals court rejected prosecutors' appeal. --> Read the whole report at Feds Drop New Hampshire Phone-Jamming Case | TPMMuckraker

April 8, 2009

Alabama: Bob Riley gets the Streisand Effect

The Birmingham News reports: Several televi­sion stations have stopped running ads from a pro-bingo group that at­tempt to link Gov. Bob Riley to Choctaw tribal casinos in Mississippi.

Riley's deputy legal adviser sent the stations a letter threatening legal action if the ads aired by the Sweet Home Alabama Coalition -- a group pushing a bingo bill in the Alabama Legislature -- were not pulled. The commercial suggests Riley opposes the bill because he received cam­paign donations from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, which op­erates casinos in Mississippi. -- TV stations stop pro-bingo group's ads linking Riley to Choctaws

Wikipedia says, "The Streisand effect is an Internet phenomenon where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be widely publicized."

Riley may have wanted to stop the incorrect (he says) information, but he managed to spread it around more. As I post this, Google News lists 99 versions of the story.

February 19, 2009

Maine: federal judge dismisses latest charges against Tobin

The Bangor Daily News reports: A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed the most recent charges against James Tobin, 48, of Bangor that alleged he lied to the FBI about his role in a phone jamming scheme on Election Day 2002 in New Hampshire.

U.S. District Judge George Z. Singal agreed with attorneys for the former GOP political organizer that bringing the charges in U.S. District Court in Maine after he had been vindicated on far more serious ones in New Hampshire qualified as a vindictive prosecution.

“The vindictive prosecution doctrine imposes critical ‘constitutional limits’ upon the exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” Singal wrote in his 12-page decision. “Those limits protect all current and future criminal defendants, including those whose conduct may be properly described as ‘insidious’ or ‘thoroughly bad.’ And by filing more severe charges following Tobin’s successful appeal without sufficient justification, the government exceeded those here.” ...

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his conviction in 2007. It found that the telephone harassment statute was not a good fit for what Tobin had been convicted of doing. ...

The latest charges against Tobin alleged that he lied when he told the FBI that it was McGee’s idea to contact Raymond for assistance in executing the plan. Tobin also lied, according to the indictment, when he told the FBI that Raymond and McGee already had spoken when Tobin talked with Raymond about the plan. -- District judge clears Tobin

Hat tip to TPM Muckraker.

October 28, 2008

Good new: plenty of work for lawyers; bad news: it's unpaid

The New York Times reports: With heavy voter turnout expected on Election Day, both parties are amassing thousands and thousands of lawyers to keep an eye on the polls.

Senator Barack Obama’s campaign is expected to send at least 5,000 lawyers to Florida alone. The first recruitment e-mail message the campaign sent out nationally received 6,000 responses from lawyers willing to volunteer. Meanwhile, Senator John McCain’s campaign has lined up “Lawyers for McCain” to spread out at polling places in closely contested states as advocates for the ticket.

Both campaigns plan to use the lawyers to protect their supporters at the polls, help untangle ballot problems and run to court should litigation be necessary. Given the heated ballot challenges in the 2000 and 2004 elections, getting legal talent on the ground on Election Day is becoming as common a tool for the campaigns as advertising and polling.

“Both sides are assembling literally thousands of lawyers at the state level,” said Kenneth Gross, a campaign finance lawyer at Skadden, Arps in Washington who represents both parties. “We’re not talking about Laurence Tribe or David Boies, but there will be no shortage of lawyers looking for any kind of imperfection in the process.” -- Both Campaigns Enlist Lawyers to Watch Polls -

October 26, 2008

Alaska: state law may allow Palin book but not TV show while still in office

Politico reports: If Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin does not become vice president on Nov. 4, she can look forward to a sweet payday for a memoir about her unlikely VP run should she choose to write one. But she might have to forgo hundreds of thousands of dollars in lucrative speaking fees and perhaps even millions more should she be asked to host a cable or network television show.

Palin, who is expected to serve out her term as governor, which runs through 2010, would likely be allowed to write a book about the VP race under Alaska state laws that govern outside pay of government officials. But restrictions under the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act could disallow her from accepting speaking fees or a salary for television appearances while she’s serving in state government.

Section 39.52.170 of the ethics law declares that public employees “may not render services to benefit a personal or financial interest or engage in or accept employment outside the agency which the employee serves, if the outside employment or service is incompatible or in conflict with the proper discharge of official duties.” In addition, “the head of a principal executive department of the state may not accept employment for compensation outside the agency that the executive head serves.” -- Law may preclude TV stardom for Palin

Since it is illegal for the campaign to pay for Palin's clothes, the RNC did

Newsweek reports: The disclosure that the Republican National Committee spent more than $150,000 on clothing and accessories for vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family set off recriminations among GOP officials—and, more important, party donors. ...

The decision to greenlight the purchases was made after Palin arrived in Minneapolis for the Republican Party convention. Campaign aides quickly concluded that she lacked the necessary wardrobe for two months of intensive national campaigning. "She didn't have the fancy pantsuits that Hillary Clinton has," explained one staffer (who, like most others interviewed for this account, declined to be identified speaking about the episode). The problem was figuring out how to pay for new dresswear: the 2002 McCain-Feingold law, co-authored by the GOP candidate, tightened the rules to ban using campaign funds for personal clothing. While Jeff Larson, a veteran GOP consultant who headed the party's "host" committee, provided his credit card for the Palin family shopping spree, he was directed to send the bills over to the Republican National Committee (which was not covered by the clothing ban in McCain-Feingold). RNC officials were not happy about it. "We were explicitly directed by the campaign to pay these costs," said one senior RNC official who also requested anonymity. After at first declining to comment, a McCain spokeswoman said the clothes would be donated to charity after the campaign was over. -- Not The Change They Wanted

Hat-tip to TalkLeft for the link.

October 25, 2008

Alabama: political parties are lawyered up

The Birmingham News reports: The polls aren't open yet, but Alabama Democrats and Republicans are preparing their legal teams to deal with any problems that might crop up on Election Day.

Voter registration surged past 2.9 million as election officials handled a flurry of last-minute applications Friday, the final day to sign up to vote in the Nov. 4 general election. With a record turnout expected, officials with Alabama political parties said they want their legal teams on guard for disenfranchisement or shenanigans on Election Day.

"We're on the precipice of a historic election," Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham said. "With record registrations and anticipated record voter turnout, we are anticipating that polling sites may be overwhelmed and that today's voter rolls may not reflect the true number of Alabama citizens who are legally entitled to cast a ballot."

Democratic Party attorney James Anderson said Friday that more than 200 volunteer lawyers - including a lawyer from the Democratic National Committee - will be ready to deal with any problems that come up at the polls. The party is setting up situation rooms in Birmingham and Montgomery to handle complaints. ...

Republicans have assembled their own legal team. Alabama Republican Party Chairman Mike Hubbard said a lawyer will be stationed in every county on Nov. 4. He said his major concern is preventing ballot fraud. -- Voter registration closes with record numbers, Alabama political parties to send in lawyers on Election Day -

October 24, 2008

"The Republican Disconnect"

Democracy Corps reports: With the country poised for its second wave election, Republican supporters are on a different page and disconnected from the rest of the country. That helps explain John McCain’s implausible close to the campaign and perhaps foretells difficulties Republicans will face dealing with the aftermath. In this special national survey with an enlarged sample of self-identified Republicans and independents who identify with Republicans, we asked the question, “who is to blame for John McCain’s possible defeat?” Republicans believe McCain will have lost because of a hostile mainstream media, economic events beyond their control and Democrats having more money and resources. Few have begun to examine bigger issues, though their views of the current campaign and the future suggest a party very out of touch with unfolding events.

* While a sizeable majority of voters say Republicans have lost in 2006 and 2008 because they have been “too conservative,” a sizeable plurality of Republicans say, it is because they have “not been conservative enough.”
* Over three-quarters of Republicans say Palin was good choice, while a majority of the electorate says the opposite. ...

Those responses are not surprising when you ask Republicans the cause of their defeats: 65 percent say the mainstream media favoring Obama, followed distantly by economic events outside anyone’s control (29 percent) and Obama and the Democrats having more money (25 percent). Only 12 percent thought that McCain wanting to continue Bush’s policies was the culprit, only 10 percent pointed to Palin and only 8 percent suggested the big spending and deficits were to blame.

The key issue from this special survey of Republicans is whether or not the party is connected enough to what is happening in the country to work with the new leaders of the country and to begin the process of self-examination necessary for political change. -- Democracy Corps: The Republican Disconnect

October 17, 2008

Colorado: early voting forces campaigns into a marathon of GOTV

The New York Times reports: The presidential debate had barely ended Wednesday night when Kristin Marshall had her ballot on her lap, pen in hand, ready to vote. Three friends, all supporters of Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, had their ballots, too. ...

With Election Day less than three weeks away, the number of people voting by mail has exploded in Colorado, a closely divided state up for grabs in November. Nearly half of the state’s registered voters have requested ballots by mail, compelling the Obama and McCain campaigns to kick-start their get-out-the-vote efforts — and devise new and imaginative ones.

All across the state, the traditional Election Day sprint by campaign workers has changed into a nearly monthlong marathon, made all the more pressing by the tightness of the race. ...

Mail-in voting has put down its deepest roots in Oregon, Washington and California, but election experts say the significance of Colorado’s mail-in voting this year has been amplified because the state is one of the few tossups left on the electoral map.

Previously, voting by mail in Colorado has been most common in rural areas, where distances make a trip to the polls problematic and Republican voters usually dominate. But the clerk and recorder for Weld County, Steve Moreno, said the Obama campaign, in particular, had embraced the idea of voting-by-mail this year and met with him about how to expand the numbers. -- Rise in Voting by Mail Transforms Race in Colorado - Series -

October 15, 2008

House Oversight Committee says Bush White House used government resources to aid election of allies

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform states in a newly issued report: This report examines the operations of the White House Office of Political Affairs during the Bush Administration. It finds that the White House used the political affairs office to orchestrate an aggressive strategy to use taxpayer-funded trips to help elect Republican candidates for public office. From January 1, 2006, until the mid-term elections on November 7, 2006, cabinet secretaries and other senior officials traveled to over 300 events recommended by the political affairs office. All of these events were held with Republican candidates, and in most cases, the travel costs were paid for with federal funds.

President Bush’s first director of the political affairs office was Ken Mehlman. In an interview with the Committee, he stated that “a big part” of his job was to “help elect allies of the President.” He also said it was his view that “one legally could have, in the Office of Political Affairs, focused entirely on simply promoting … the President’s allies.” He told the Committee that he consulted closely about “nearly all aspects of what I was doing” with the Office of White House Counsel under Alberto Gonzales.

The view that White House officials could legally promote the election of Republican congressional candidates led to an extensive effort prior to the 2006 elections. From January 1 to November 7, 2006, Bush Administration officials participated in 326 events with Republican candidates suggested by the political affairs office, more than one per day. Cabinet officials and agency heads personally attended 306 of these events. Of these 326 events, 303 required travel outside of Washington, D.C. Thirty-two officials from 12 cabinet agencies and three independent offices journeyed to 35 states to make appearances with 99 Republicans running for election in 2006. Even offices with statutory provisions prohibiting political activity, like the Office of National Drug Control Policy, were enlisted in the election effort. -- The Activities of the White House Office of Political Affairs

October 14, 2008

New Hampshire: Tobin indicted for lying to FBI

TPM Muckraker reports: Former Republican operative James Tobin has been indicted for making false statements to the FBI in connection with the bureau's investigation of a phone-jamming scheme in New Hampshire in 2002, according to court filings examined by TPMmuckraker.

... Here's the indictment. It contains two counts, both related to making false statements to the FBI during its investigation into the New Hampshire GOP's effort to jam the phones of the Democratic Party on Election Day 2002.

It charges, in part:

"Tobin stated that when he first called Allen Raymond to discuss the phone-jamming scheme, Raymond and Charles McGee had already spoken with each other about the plans. In fact, as Tobin well knew, Tobin spoke with Raymond before Raymond was contacted by McGee, and Tobin requested that Raymond assist McGee with the plan."

McGee, the former executive director of the New Hampshire GOP, and Raymond, a GOP consultant, both were convicted and served jail time in connection with the scheme.

But Tobin's own 2005 conviction relating to the scheme was thrown out on appeal in 2007, and he was acquitted. -- TPMMuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Ex-GOP Operative in New Hampshire Indicted

October 11, 2008

John Lewis speaks truth to power

John Lewis writes on Politico: As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.

During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate.

George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.

As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better. -- The Arena - Politico's daily debate with policymakers and opinion shapers |

By the way, compare John Lewis to the comments of David Gergen on The Colbert Report.

October 10, 2008

Alabama: State Bar denounces push poll in Supreme Court race

The Huntsville Times reports: The Alabama State Bar on Thursday condemned "swift boat" tactics that are being used against the Democratic nominee for the state Supreme Court.

The state bar said a telephone "push poll" is being used to "spread misinformation and disinformation about one of the candidates running for a seat on the state Supreme Court."

Some voters are getting "push poll" telephone calls claiming the state bar has conducted a judicial evaluation that gave Deborah Bell Paseur an "F" grade and that the bar's membership is primarily affiliated with the Democratic Party.

A push poll is a dirty tricks campaign technique in which an organization tries to influence a voter under the guise of conducting a poll. Instead, it's a form of telemarketing-based propaganda. -- State bar condemns push poll attack on Paseur -

October 8, 2008

Undecided voters breaking towards Obama

Democracy Corps reports: Barack Obama once again won tonight’s debate, and undecided voters are prepared to move toward his candidacy, according to Democracy Corps research conducted around tonight’s second presidential debate. Unlike the first debate, when Democracy Corps research showed half the voters remaining undecided and the two candidates splitting the other half, the vote following the second debate showed a decisive shift toward Senator Obama. This debate was a clear victory for Obama who made major gains not just in the vote but also on personal favorability and key attributes like ‘has what it takes to be President,’ which ultimately drove undecided voters into his column.

Democracy Corps conducted dial testing of the debate with 50 undecided voters in Henderson, Nevada, followed by focus group discussions with voters who shifted toward one of the candidates after seeing the debate. These voters were evenly split in terms of partisan identification – 26 percent Democrat, 48 percent Independent, and 26 percent Republican – but 50 percent voted for Bush in 2004, compared to 34 percent who voted for Kerry. -- Second Presidential Debate: Undecided Voters Move Decisively Toward Obama

October 7, 2008

What to wear to the polling place is not just a sartorial question

NPR's Morning Edition has this story: Millions of newly registered voters are expected to turn out for next month's presidential election. Supporters of Barack Obama have been e-mailing and text-messaging them about what not to wear. Depending on what state they live in, if voters show up at the polls with a candidate's name on a T-shirt or hat, they could be turned away.

The elections office in Horry County, S.C., bustles as people stream in on one of the last days to register to vote.

Elections manager Lynn Marlowe says if one of these new voters tries to cast a ballot wearing a political hat, button or T-shirt, he or she will be asked to take it off or cover it up. -- At Polls In S.C., Don't Wear Politics On Your Sleeve : NPR

October 6, 2008

Nebraska: one electoral vote means some attention

The Washington Post reports: With a month to go before Election Day, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, touched down here Sunday for an unexpected rally in a state that President Bush won by 22 percentage points in 2004.

In early September, even as it was shifting resources out of other traditionally Republican states to key electoral battlegrounds, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign sent 15 paid staffers to Nebraska, a state that has backed a Democrat for president just once since 1936. ...

Both camps have their eyes on the same reward: a single electoral vote that could prove pivotal in determining the next president.

Nebraska is one of only two states that award electoral votes by congressional district, rather than on a winner-take-all basis. Obama strategists see an opportunity in the 2nd District, where disaffection with Washington and strong Democratic voter-registration efforts are narrowing the Republican advantage. -- Nebraska Becomes Unlikely Battleground -

October 3, 2008

Alabama: Neighbor-to-Neighbor Canvassing Tool

The Alabama Democratic Party announces: This year we have an unprecedented opportunity to elect Democrats from the top of the ticket to the bottom. The political winds are at our backs and we can change America for the better, but we need your help! In order to achive our goals we are launching an online Neighbor-to-Neighbor Canvassing Tool.

This tool will allow every Democrat to:

-Sign up and create an online account
-Receive a list of registered voters in their neighborhood
-Print walk lists of the registered voters in their neighborhood
-Print flyers for various Democratic nominees
-And, most importantly, record the repsonses or "IDs" from specific survey questions

Access the Canvassing Tool here.

September 27, 2008

Debate One: Democracy Corps reports on a small focus group

Democracy Corps reports on reaction to last night's debate: With Barack Obama gaining momentum, John McCain needed to change the dynamic in the race during tonight’s debate and to shift the focus of the campaign onto friendlier terrain. Instead, Democracy Corps research finds that McCain essentially held his ground in this debate, while Obama emerged with higher personal favorability and increased confidence in his ability to handle critical foreign policy and national security issues.

During and after the debate, Democracy Corps conducted a set of dial and focus groups among 45 undecided voters in St. Louis, Missouri. These voters had an unmistakably Republican tilt, voting for President Bush by a 2-to-1 margin in 2004 and self-identifying as 33 percent Republican and 27 percent Democrat. But playing on his perceived strength of national security and before a friendly audience, McCain could only manage a draw among this group. Of our 45 initial undecided voters, a quarter moved to Obama and a quarter to McCain after the debate with the rest remaining undecided. Moreover, by a 38 to 27 percent margin these voters said that Obama won this debate.

A look at the underlying numbers shows that Obama made important gains that could endure through Election Day. These undecided voters had a strong positive reaction to Obama on a personal level. Before the debate, just 40 percent viewed Obama positively, but this skyrocketed to 69 percent after the debate – a remarkable 29-point gain that left him more personally popular than McCain despite this group’s conservative leanings. He also made large strides on being seen as independent, from 44 percent to 65 percent. And in head-to-head matchups against McCain, Obama made significant gains on who “shares your values” and is “on your side." -- First Presidential Debate: Obama Makes Important Personal and National Security Gains

September 19, 2008

It's the biology, stupid

Nell Greenfieldboyce reports on NPR: John Hibbing, a researcher at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been studying whether people's political beliefs might be linked to biological traits such as their startle reflex.

He says traditionally, political scientists have assumed that social influences are the main determinant of people's voting patterns. ...

Hibbing and his colleagues found that they could predict what a person's political beliefs would be based on how strongly the person's body responded to the alarming images and sounds, according to a report in the journal Science.

"Those people who seemed to have a stronger reaction to threat were more likely to favor things like military spending, the death penalty, the Patriot Act," says Hibbing. -- Could Political Views Be Driven By Biology? : NPR

Cool picture of the spider on a woman's face.

"Independent Political Groups Return With 527 Ads"

Peter Overby reports on NPR: As the Nov. presidential election draws nearer, ad by independent political groups are already on the air. John McCain and Barack Obama have said that these groups should stay out of the election process. But there seems to be no way to stop them. -- Independent Political Groups Return With 527 Ads : NPR

September 17, 2008

United Kingdom: great idea, except it's illegal

The Liberal Democrats came up with this great idea. Here's the way the Press Association described it: Voters will be bombarded with a quarter of a million automated telephone calls featuring a recording of Nick Clegg as part of a new Liberal Democrat attempt to canvass public opinion of its leader's policies.

Households in 50 marginal seats will be targeted by the US-style cold-calling technique shortly after Mr Clegg delivers a keynote conference speech in which he will declare Labour "dead" and his party the only alternative. -- Cold-calling Clegg eyes key voters

But, as The Herald explains: The SNP [Scottish Nationalist Party] and the Conservatives have weighed in to the LibDem telesales debacle, claiming that the masterplan to ring up 250,000 voters last night with an automated Nick Clegg, multiple choice, cold call is quite illegal.

Something to do with the 2003 Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations and quite a lot to do with the fact that the LibDems complained about the SNP doing the same thing in 2005.

M'learned friends will recall that on that occasion the Information Commissioner ruled that what the SNP were doing was illegal and took out an enforcement notice. -- Nationalists Remember The Illegality Of Cold Call Masterplan (from The Herald )

September 9, 2008

Virginia: McCain will campaign at Fairfax school, in violation of school policy

A Washington Post report begins: Sen. John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, are holding a campaign rally at Fairfax High School tomorrow morning in violation of a school system policy, prompting some teachers and community leaders to question district officials.

According to the Fairfax County policy, which addresses how the community can use school facilities, "School buildings and grounds may not be used for campaign activities during school hours."

Superintendent Jack D. Dale said he made an exception to the policy because he thought it would be a good learning experience for students. "We are not participating in a political rally," he said. "We are letting our kids have new educational opportunities." He alerted the School Board about the event yesterday during a meeting at the school administration building. ...

Dale said he made the same policy exception for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. Obama held a town hall meeting at Robinson Secondary School in July, with about 2,000 participants. School was not in session, but an arts program and some other activities were being held in other parts of the school, Dale said. The policy does not address summer school activities. -- School Use For McCain, Palin Rally Bucks Rule -

September 8, 2008

Group of pastors will defy ban on endorsement-sermons

A Washington Post report begins: Declaring that clergy have a constitutional right to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, the socially conservative Alliance Defense Fund is recruiting several dozen pastors to do just that on Sept. 28, in defiance of Internal Revenue Service rules.

The effort by the Arizona-based legal consortium is designed to trigger an IRS investigation that ADF lawyers would then challenge in federal court. The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship. ...

Yet an opposing collection of Christian and Jewish clergy will petition the IRS today to stop the protest before it starts, calling the ADF's "Pulpit Initiative" an assault on the rule of law and the separation of church and state.

Backed by three former top IRS officials, the group also wants the IRS to determine whether the nonprofit ADF is risking its own tax-exempt status by organizing an "inappropriate, unethical and illegal" series of political endorsements. -- Ban on Political Endorsements by Pastors Targeted -

September 5, 2008

New York: " A family man for family court"

Proving once again that election lawyers need to know many different areas of law, David Giacalone at the f/k/a blog reports: Lawyer Kurt Mausert wants to be Family Court judge in Saratoga County, New York. Since his website went up on April 1st, it has boasted this rather uninspiring slogan, along with the usual copyright notice:

Although most family men really hate whining kids, and he is a father of four (ages 8 to 26), Mausert is loudly and plaintively complaining that his opponent — incumbent judge Courtenay W. Hall — has “stolen” his slogan and violated the copyright held on it by the Mausert election Committee. See “Saratoga County Family Court candidates battle over slogan” (Schenectady Daily Gazette, Sept. 5, 2008); “Whose line is it, anyway?” (TU Local Politics weblog, Sept. 2, 2008). A few months ago, Mausert also complained that the Independent Party treated him unfairly by not interviewing Mausert before choosing to endorse Judge Hall. The candidates are fighting for the Independence Party endorsement in a primary election on Tuesday. (See The Saratogian). -- whiny “family man” wants to be Family Court judge — and to copyright the slogan

August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin and Grover Cleveland

Oh, the gnashing of teeth among various pundits about Palin's inexperience (see DailyKos for a small roundup of newspaper editorials). And attacks from David Frum and Ramesh Ponnuru on National Review's website.

Compare her background to that of Grover Cleveland.

-- Elected Sheriff of Erie Co., NY, in 1870 for a 4-year term. Goes back into private law practice at the end of the term.

-- 1881, elected as mayor of Buffalo

-- 1882, elected as governor of New York

-- 1884, elected to the presidency

Democrats should just shut up about Palin's "Grover Cleveland" problem (not that other problem --"Ma, ma, where's my pa? Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha.").

Campaign ads tailored to your browsing history

A Washington Post report begins: Any two people interested in whether Amanda Beard is dating fellow Olympian Michael Phelps, and who clicked on the Boston Herald tidbit that raced around the Web last week, got the same piece of gossip. ...

What was different was the political ads that appeared -- or didn't -- beside the story.

Readers who had visited Barack Obama's Web site received as many as three Obama ads alongside the gossip. "Help Elect Barack Obama President of the United States" and "Visit the Barack Obama Website," the ads said.

Readers who hadn't visited his site didn't see a single Obama pitch.

How did the campaign know which readers to send ads to? Although both the Obama and John McCain campaigns are reluctant to discuss details, the ability to identify sympathetic voters based on their Internet habits, and then to target them with ads as they move across the Web, is one of the defining aspects of the 2008 presidential campaign. -- Candidates' Web Sites Get to Know the Voters -

August 11, 2008

Obama will text you --yes, you -- his VP choice

The Trail reports: Last night, in a cell phone text message that was quickly followed by an e-mail linking back to a new page on his Web site -- -- aides to Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) campaign wrote: "Barack will announce his VP candidate choice through txt message between now & the Conv. Tell everyone to text VP to 62262 to be the first to know! Please forward." ...

It also gives the Obama campaign one more way to differentiate itself technologically from its Republican opponent; Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) doesn't have a text messaging program.

A number of candidates have experimented with texting this campaign cycle, and Obama has by far been the most prolific texter. Though Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), former governor Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) and Edwards all had text messaging programs, Obama's campaign has used the technology most consistently. Since announcing its program last summer, Obama has sent at least 25 texts to supporters. -- Obama Plans Novel VP Announcement TXT | The Trail |

August 8, 2008

"Accountable America" sends warning letter to GOP donors (letter attached)

Nearly 10,000 of the biggest donors to Republican candidates and causes across the country will probably receive a foreboding “warning” letter in the mail next week.

The letter is an opening shot across the bow from an unusual new outside political group on the left that is poised to engage in hardball tactics to prevent similar groups on the right from getting off the ground this fall.

Led by Tom Matzzie, a liberal political operative who has been involved with some prominent left-wing efforts in recent years, the newly formed nonprofit group, Accountable America, is planning to confront donors to conservative groups, hoping to create a chilling effect that will dry up contributions. ...

The warning letter is intended as a first step, alerting donors who might be considering giving to right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives. -- Group Plans Campaign Against G.O.P. Donors

Note: If anyone gets one of these letters, please send it to me. I will redact it to remove personal information before publishing. The letter is available here. By the way, the website is actually www.accountableamerica.COM (not .org).

August 5, 2008

A new prediction site

The Sam Wang writes on the Princeon Election Consortium: For those of you who followed my analysis in 2004, welcome back. Just as I did then, I’ll be providing meta-analysis of polling in the 2008 Presidential race. My central goal is to reduce hundreds of state-level polls to simple statistics that will show you the state of play. The methods will be transparent, and with the help of Andrew Ferguson, automated and more visually accessible. -- We’re back!

Hat-tip to Kevin Drum for the link.

July 27, 2008

"Black Radio on Obama Is Left’s Answer to Limbaugh "

The New York Times reports: Warren Ballentine, one of black talk radio’s new stars, was on a tear against Senator John McCain as he broadcast from the Greenbriar Mall here last week, blithely dismissing Mr. McCain’s kind words about Senator Barack Obama at the recent N.A.A.C.P. national convention. ...

Rush Limbaugh, meet your black liberal counterprogramming. Mr. Ballentine is one of the many African-American radio hosts and commentators who are aggressively advocating for Mr. Obama’s election on black-oriented radio stations daily.

Since Mr. Limbaugh first flexed his tonsils two decades ago, Democrats have publicly worried about their lack of an answer to him and his imitators, who have proven so adept at motivating conservative Republicans to go to the polls, especially for President Bush.

Now it is Mr. Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, who has a harmonious chorus of broadcast supporters addressing a vital part of his coalition, feeding and reflecting the excitement blacks have for his candidacy in general. Mr. Obama is getting support from white liberal talk radio hosts as well, but the backing he is getting from black radio hosts could be especially helpful to his campaign’s efforts to increase black turnout and raise historically low voter registration enough to change the math of presidential elections in battlegrounds and traditionally Republican states like this one. -- Black Radio on Obama Is Left’s Answer to Limbaugh

July 22, 2008

DSCC runs ads in a "gray area"

The Hill reports: National Democrats are trying their luck with a series of candidate ads that inhabit a gray area of the law, and observers say the approach could be a game-changer in the continuing battle over campaign finance reform.

In recent weeks the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has begun its 2008 ad campaign by funding issue ads that feature their candidates in Mississippi and Oregon and are coordinated with their campaigns.

However, the ads don’t expressly ask viewers to vote for those candidates, and Democrats maintain that this loophole will allow them to spend lots more money on the television spots.

Campaign finance regulations restrict the amount of money the DSCC can spend on coordinated efforts with a candidate’s campaign. But because the ads don’t ask viewers to vote for the candidates, Democrats contend that law doesn’t apply.

Republicans argue the ads are illegal — or at the very least, unethical — and have filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The ads are also being judged in the court of public opinion, and the GOP has gained some traction with a media blitz. -- - DSCC pushes the envelope with issue ads featuring candidates

July 17, 2008

GOP claims trademark infringement

Politico reports: Don’t mess with their elephant.

Or at least, don’t infringe on what the Republican National Committee refers to as the Official Elephant Logo (Federal Trademark Registration 1908397). The phrase appears in a letter demanding that a Web-based t-shirt company “cease and desist” from putting a version of the iconic Republican symbol on shirts and other merchandise.

The demands from the RNC to the California-based put the committee at the intersection of political speech and trademark law, legal experts said. The company is refusing to comply with the letter, despite a second letter from the committee referring to “further action” and possible damages.

“If you want to say ‘GOP’ and design an elephant that’s similar, want to design an elephant that’s not precisely the same as ours, that’s fine,” RNC chief counsel Sean Cairncross told Politico. “Our elephant is specific. It’s stylized, it’s blue and red, it has three stars across its back that are tilted. They’re using that precise elephant.”

The lawyer for CafePress, Paul Alan Levy, called the RNC demand an “abuse of trademark law to suppress discussion of topics of substantial public interest.” -- RNC fights use of elephant logo - Ben Smith -

July 16, 2008

Obama has your number -- and apparently lots more

Salon reports: About every week or so, you get an e-mail from Barack Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, or top deputy Steve Hildebrand, or maybe Obama himself. They re breezy and informal, addressing you by first NAME at the outset before they ask you to donate money at the end . But that s just the beginning.

You know, of course, that Obama has your e-mail address. You may not have realized that he probably also has your phone number and knows where you re registered to vote -- including whether that s a house or an apartment building, and whether you rent or own. He s got a decent estimate of your household income and whether you OPENed a credit card recently. He knows how many kids you re likely to have and what you do for a living. He knows what magazines and catalogs you get and whether you re more apt to get your news from cable TV, the local newspaper or online. And he knows what time of day you tend to get around to plowing through your in box and responding to messages.

The 5 million people on Obama s e-mail list are just the start of what political strategists say is one of the most sophisticated voter databases ever built. Using a combination of the information that supporters are volunteering, data the campaign is digging up on its own and powerful market research tools first developed for corporations, Obama s staff has combined new online organizing with old-school methods of voter outreach to assemble a central database for hitting people with messages tailored as closely as possible to what they re likely to want to hear. It s an ambitious melding of corporate marketing and grassroots organizing that the Obama campaign sees as a key to winning this fall. -- Barack Obama s super marketing machine | Salon News

June 29, 2008

Forget 527's, use cheap viral advertising via YouTube

The New York Times reports: The video blasted across the Internet, drawing political blood from Senator John McCain within a matter of days.

Produced here in a cluttered former motel behind the Sony Pictures lot, it juxtaposed harsh statements about Islam made by the Rev. Rod Parsley with statements from Mr. McCain praising Mr. Parsley, a conservative evangelical leader. The montage won notice on network newscasts this spring and ultimately helped lead Mr. McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, to reject Mr. Parsley’s earlier endorsement.

In previous elections, an attack like that would have come from party operatives, campaign researchers or the professional political hit men who orbit around them.

But in the 2008 race, the first in which campaigns are feeling the full force of the changes wrought by the Web, the most attention-grabbing attacks are increasingly coming from people outside the political world. In some cases they are amateurs operating with nothing but passion, a computer and a YouTube account, in other cases sophisticated media types with more elaborate resources but no campaign experience. -- Political Freelancers Use Web to Join the Attack -

June 17, 2008

Spot Runner

Slate reports on Spot Runner -- a low-cost generic advertising service for small businesses and now ... political candidates.

June 9, 2008

Why campaigns need lawyers who know about more than chad and petitions

CBN News reports: The Brody File first reported that the Obama campaign will be launching The Joshua Generation Project aimed at young Evangelicals and faith voters. Well, it turns out there may be a legal issue with the NAME. Read below from Roll Call.

Sen. Barack Obama is about to launch his latest outreach to religious voters, but the NAME of the group could land him in legal trouble.

First reported on Friday by Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody, Obama s Joshua Generation is designed to help the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee appeal to young evangelicals.

But "Generation Joshua," a division of the Home School Legal Defense Association, has been established since 2003 and is pursuing legal action against the Obama campaign.

"This is an improper invasion of our trademark and we ve retained legal counsel to notify the Obama campaign to stop this," HSLDA's co-founder, chairman, and general counsel, Michael Farris, told Roll Call on Monday morning. The conservative group plans to notify the Obama campaign later today. -- Obama Campaign may be Sued for Joshua Generation Project - The Brody File: David Brody Blog - CBN News

Note: Google the two words Joshua Generation and see how many hits you get. It's like calling your church Mt. Shiloh Baptist Church. Thousands of them.

June 8, 2008

Projecting a presidential winner

I was reading an article in the Kansas City Star, Mapping a long road to the White House, and noticed a reference to Electoral Projections Done Right. I suggest you take a look at it.

I have not fully digested their methodology, but it appears they are trying to be open in disclosing the methodology.

Note their list of states in the left column. The states are in groups of 4-6. The names are pretty standard -- New England, Pacific, Rust Belt, etc. But one stands out: "Acela." Before you look at, guess the 5 states in Acela.

June 7, 2008

Black Caucus receives "offensive" T-shirt about Obama

The Washington Post's Sleuth blog reports: The president of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation is disturbed by an offensive t-shirt the group received in the mail Wednesday, the day after Barack Obama claimed his party s presidential nomination. The shirt has a cartoon image of Curious George, the beloved children s character, with a paper bag over his head holding a sign that says A Truth We Can Believe in 08!!! written underneath.

CBCF President Elsie Scott says she believes the timing of the package was no coincidence. We received it as a reaction to Obama winning the nomination, she tells the Sleuth. ...

Scott said she found the t-shirt "offensive" and when she looked more closely at the back of it, she became "very disturbed" and reported the contents of the package to the hate crimes unit of the D.C. Metropolitan Police.

The back of the shirt lists several African American organizations, ranging from the CBCF and the NAACP to the Black Surfers Association, the Black Coaches Association and Obama's former church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. It prints the United Nations' definition of "racial discrimination" and states, underneath the listing of all the black organizations, "Who is really causing the Racial Division." -- Black Group Offended by Delivery of T-Shirt - The Sleuth

June 3, 2008

Alabama: R.I.P. Tim Baer

The Birmingham News reports: Former Alabama Republican Party Executive Director Tim Baer, a plainspoken political operative who helped the GOP take over the state s appellate courts, died over the weekend.

Mr. Baer, who was born near Buffalo, N.Y., and reared in Pompano Beach, Fla., had called Birmingham home since 1985. He was 57.

While he was the state GOP s executive director for a time - first getting the job in 1997 - Mr. Baer also worked as director of field operations for the Business Council of Alabama, where his job included raising money for the group s political action committee, Progress PAC. He also was an aide to former Probate Judge Mark Gaines, where one of his jobs was to oversee Jefferson County elections. -- Former Alabama Republican Party Executive Director Tim Baer dies at the age of 57-

June 2, 2008

R.I.P. -- Jordan Wright

The New York Times reports: Jordan M. Wright, who at 10 was thrilled to learn that politicians hand out self-promotional baubles, then collected more than a million bumper stickers and other campaign artifacts — from the time of George Washington to that of George W. Bush — died on May 11 at his home in Atlantic Beach, N.Y. He was 50. ...

Mr. Wright, a lawyer, businessman and publisher, died just as his political treasure chest (if “Clean Up With Ike” bars of soap can be called treasure) was getting wider notice. This year, he published a book with pictures and commentary on his vast collection, and next month, the Museum of the City of New York will exhibit some of it. In recent months, interviews with Mr. Wright have appeared in newspapers around the country, as he and a tiny fraction of his collection have toured. ...

Few could forget what the museum calls his “one of a kind” porcelain and cloth doll depicting, when held upright, President William McKinley. Turned upside down, an African-American baby can be seen. The doll was meant to be a reminder of the rumor that Mr. McKinley had fathered a black child out of wedlock.

Another proof that old-time politics were at least as dirty as today’s version, and evidently stranger, was the brochure produced by President Warren Harding’s father-in-law. His disenchantment with his daughter’s groom can be gleaned from the title: “The Serious Lesson in President Harding’s Case of Gonorrhea.” -- Jordan Wright, 50, Political Archivist, Dies

May 26, 2008

"Military Chief Warns Troops About Politics"

The New York Times reports: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has written an unusual open letter to all those in uniform, warning them to stay out of politics as the nation approaches a presidential election in which the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be a central, and certainly divisive, issue.

“The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times and in all ways,” wrote the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation’s highest-ranking officer. “It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway.”

Admiral Mullen’s essay appears in the coming issue of Joint Force Quarterly, an official military journal that is distributed widely among the officer corps.

The essay is the first Admiral Mullen has written for the journal as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and veteran officers said they could not remember when a similar “all-hands” letter had been issued to remind military personnel to remain outside, if not above, contentious political debate. -- Military Chief Warns Troops About Politics -

May 17, 2008

McCain issues conflict-of-interest rules for his staff

The New York Times reports: After expelling four advisers in the last week over concerns about their outside entanglements, Senator John McCain said Friday that his presidential campaign was beginning a new “vetting process” intended to end the embarrassments over staff ties to private interests, foreign governments or independent political groups.

A campaign spokeswoman said it was too soon to say how many campaign officials might be removed under the new rules, which were distributed to campaign staff members Thursday night with a questionnaire to ferret out potential conflicts. ...

The midcampaign staff review underscores the difficulties Mr. McCain is having in trying to build his Republican presidential campaign around his crusades for tighter ethics rules and pledges to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest. It is hard for any campaign to find experienced operatives who do not also sell their political connections, expertise or influence to private interests. And Mr. McCain’s emphasis on strict ethics has drawn special attention to the number of potential conflicts within his own staff.

On Friday, the campaign severed its ties to Craig Shirley, a veteran public relations consultant who had helped handle outreach to conservatives. The campaign said it would no longer employ Mr. Shirley because he was also working for, an independent political group initially dedicated to attacking Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that is now refocusing on Senator Barack Obama (and changing its name). -- In Effort to Avoid Conflicts, McCain Issues New Rules for Staff - New York Times

May 16, 2008

New Hampshire: phone jamming case gets a going-over by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee

New Hampshire Public Radio reports: The phone jamming scandal from New Hampshire s 2002 election is now a contentious issue on Capitol Hill.

Democrats are investigating what they say was White House involvement in the incident while Republicans say Democrats are just fishing for headlines.

NHPR Correspondent Matt Laslo reports from Washington. -- Phone Jamming Scandal Gets Hearing in US House | New Hampshire Public Radio

May 13, 2008

"Street money"

The New York Times reports: In the threadbare border towns of South Texas, one of the country’s poorest regions, enterprising locals like Candelaria Espinoza have long been paid to round up votes for candidates on Election Day. There is even a name for these electoral soldiers of fortune: politiqueras. ...

The payments, known in the political vernacular as “street money,” are a legal but controversial tool that Mrs. Clinton employed at a time when she was desperately seeking a victory after losing 10 consecutive contests to Mr. Obama.

As a practical matter, the payments are now little more than a footnote to a hotly contested race that seems closer to a conclusion after Mrs. Clinton’s poor showing in North Carolina and narrow victory in Indiana last Tuesday. But they underscore how her strategists, caught unprepared for a drawn-out battle, turned to an old-style method of retail politicking to ensure much-needed victories in the suddenly critical Texas and Ohio primaries.

Not equipped with the volunteer-driven grass-roots movement that has propelled Mr. Obama’s get-out-the-vote efforts, the Clinton campaign hired more than three times as many local operatives as he to fill that role in those two states. While mostly forgoing the use of street money in Ohio and other places, the Obama campaign paid about 150 people in Texas, most of them college students, for campaign work. The payments were widely dispersed, with only a handful in South Texas and fewer than 20 in Houston. -- Legal but Controversial, It Helped Get Out the Vote

May 9, 2008

Preaching Truth (or some version of it) to Power (aka the IRS)

The Wall Street Journal reports: A conservative legal-advocacy group is enlisting ministers to use their pulpits to preach about election candidates this September, defying a tax law that bars churches from engaging in politics.

Alliance Defense Fund, a Scottsdale, Ariz., nonprofit, is hoping at least one sermon will prompt the Internal Revenue Service to investigate, sparking a court battle that could get the tax provision declared unconstitutional. Alliance lawyers represent churches in disputes with the IRS over alleged partisan activity.

The action marks the latest attempt by a conservative organization to help clergy harness their congregations to sway elections. The protest is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 28, a little more than a month before the general election, in a year when religious concerns and preachers have been a regular part of the political debate. ...

The section of the tax code barring nonprofits from intervening in political campaigns has long frustrated clergy. Many ministers consider the provision an inappropriate government intrusion, blocking the duty of clergy to advise congregants.

Alliance fund staff hopes 40 or 50 houses of worship will take part in the action, including clerics from liberal-leaning congregations. About 80 ministers have expressed interest, including one Catholic priest, says Erik Stanley, the Alliance's senior legal counsel. -- Pastors May Defy IRS Gag Rule -

The problem with "Hillary Clinton for the Supreme Court?"

Carlton Larson, writing on Prawfsblawg, suggests "Suppose Obama announced that he would name Hillary Clinton to the first Supreme Court vacancy of his term." -- PrawfsBlawg: Hillary Clinton for the Supreme Court?

There is a small problem with that idea. 18 USC § 599 provides:

Whoever, being a candidate, directly or indirectly promises or pledges the appointment, or the use of his influence or support for the appointment of any person to any public or private position or employment, for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

May 8, 2008

DNC analysis shows turnout in Dem primaries up and above GOP's

The DNC released a memo this afternoon showing

  • From 2004 to 2008, for all states for which comparable data was available, Democratic turnout increased by significant margins—no state saw a decrease for Democrats and many states saw turnout increasing by thousands of percentage points.

  • In contrast, comparing 2008 Republican turnout to the last contested Republican primary in 2000, Republican turnout either stayed relatively stagnant or decreased. Sinking turnout throughout the country for Republicans shows the contrast between Democrats and Republicans this primary season.

  • In fact, for the 30 states for which comparable data is available, 27 of them saw more Democratic than Republican voters this year.
  • The memo contains state-by-state tables and more supporting data.

    May 4, 2008

    The "Nuclear Option" at the Democratic Convention

    Tom Edsall writes on the Huffington Post: Hillary Clinton s campaign has a secret weapon to build its delegate count, but her top strategists say privately that any attempt to deploy it would require a sharp and by no means inevitable shift in the political climate within Democratic circles by the end of this month.

    With at least 50 percent of the Democratic Party s 30-member Rules and Bylaws Committee committed to Clinton, her backers could -- when the committee meets at the end of this month -- try to ram through a decision to seat the disputed 210-member Florida and 156-member Michigan delegations. Such a decision would give Clinton an estimated 55 or more delegates than Obama, according to Clinton campaign operatives. The Obama campaign has declined to give an estimate. -- Clinton Camp Considering Nuclear Option To Overtake Delegate Lead - Politics on The Huffington Post

    Comment: The only reason to float this scenario now is to send a Nixonian message to Obama's would-be supporters that HRC is willing to destroy the Party in order to get her way. By projecting this power now, she hopes to sway waverers away from Obama.

    North Carolina: "Women's Voices, Women Vote" in hot water over robo-calls

    The Washington Post reports: Women's Voices, Women Vote is one of those little advocacy organizations with a lot of big names attached: Former White House chief of staff John Podesta is a board member, Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams has consulted, and founder Page Gardner worked for the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign, to name a few.

    But for all the paid and unpaid talent associated with the group, which focuses on registering unmarried women to vote, it's landed in legal hot water in North Carolina for robo-calling voters after the primary registration date and for not identifying the group in the call.

    Voters and watchdog groups complained about the calls, and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper ordered them to stop on Wednesday. Some saw a turnout-suppression conspiracy because the group's allies include so many Clinton supporters, especially Podesta and Williams.

    On Friday, Barack Obama's campaign weighed in by circulating the transcript of a National Public Radio report on the calls. It noted that the North Carolina calls seemed to heavily skew to African Americans, including many women who had already registered, causing them to question whether they were eligible to vote in the primary on Tuesday.

    In a statement released on its Web site, the group explains that the calls were part of a general-election outreach effort in 24 states and coincided with mailings that conveyed a similar "hurry up and register" message. But in other states as well, the mailings and calls were placed after primary registration deadlines had passed, sowing confusion and leading to other legal complaints against the group. -- Women's Voices, Women Vote: Did the Outreach Overreach? -

    May 3, 2008

    "Republicans Crossing Over to Vote in Democratic Contests"

    The New York Times reports: Even some states without open primaries seem to have experienced crossover voting. In the Pennsylvania vote on April 22, voter surveys indicated that about 5 percent of those voting in the Democratic primary were Republicans who switched their party registration; they split their vote almost evenly between the two candidates.

    Here in Indiana, both Democratic candidates are sending surrogates to campaign in traditionally Republican areas they might have ignored in years past, including in Hamilton County, Indiana’s fastest-growing and most affluent county.

    “We’re getting a lot of inquiries from Republicans asking how do you do it, how do you cross over,” Dan Parker, the Democratic Party state chairman, said in an interview here. “It’s been our No. 1 request for the past two months.”

    Clouding the picture, however, is a campaign by Rush Limbaugh, the radio talk show host, urging his listeners to cast their ballots for Mrs. Clinton “if they can stomach it,” in order to prolong the Democratic race and weaken the eventual winner. -- Republicans Crossing Over to Vote in Democratic Contests - New York Times

    April 29, 2008

    Alabama: Homewood mayor apologizes for cut rate to McCain

    The Birmingham News reports: Homewood Mayor Barry McCulley apologized Monday for granting the McCain presidential campaign a reduced rental rate at Rosewood Hall for an April 21 fundraiser.

    The campaign was charged $250 to rent two rooms, which have a posted rate of $1,200.

    I did exceed my authority by changing the rental rate of Rosewood Hall prior to the John McCain event, McCulley said in a three-page statement. At that time, I believed that I had been given that authority. ...

    McCulley reiterated that he wasn't attempting to give the McCain campaign a special deal: "My motives were simply to implement what had already been discussed, in order to create additional revenue for the city where there had been none due to rates for Monday and Tuesday nights being too high."

    McCulley said he asked the McCain campaign to pay the balance of the rent.

    "Short of that, I will find a way to pay the difference myself," he said. -- Homewood Mayor McCulley apologizes for reduced rental rate to McCain event-

    April 27, 2008

    It's so nice to have a jet in the family

    The New York Times reports: Given Senator John McCain’s signature stance on campaign finance reform, it was not surprising that he backed legislation last year requiring presidential candidates to pay the actual cost of flying on corporate jets. The law, which requires campaigns to pay charter rates when using such jets rather than cheaper first-class fares, was intended to reduce the influence of lobbyists and create a level financial playing field.

    But over a seven-month period beginning last summer, Mr. McCain’s cash-short campaign gave itself an advantage by using a corporate jet owned by a company headed by his wife, Cindy McCain, according to public records. For five of those months, the plane was used almost exclusively for campaign-related purposes, those records show.

    Mr. McCain’s campaign paid a total of $241,149 for the use of that plane from last August through February, records show. That amount is approximately the cost of chartering a similar jet for a month or two, according to industry estimates.

    The senator was able to fly so inexpensively because the law specifically exempts aircraft owned by a candidate or his family or by a privately held company they control. The Federal Election Commission adopted rules in December to close the loophole — rules that would have required substantial payments by candidates using family-owned planes — but the agency soon lost the requisite number of commissioners needed to complete the rule making.

    Because that exemption remains, Mr. McCain’s campaign was able to use his wife’s corporate plane like a charter jet while paying first-class rates, several campaign finance experts said. Several of those experts, however, added that his campaign’s actions, while keeping with the letter of law, did not reflect its spirit. -- McCain Frequently Used Wife’s Jet for Little Cost

    April 26, 2008

    Alabama: who has the authority to set the rate for the McCain fundraiser?

    The Birmingham News reports: A brewing dispute over a $250 rental rate charged to Republican presidential candidate John McCain has pitted Homewood s mayor and the City Council on opposing sides.

    Mayor Barry McCulley authorized renting two rooms in Homewood s Rosewood Hall to the McCain campaign for a Monday night fundraiser at a rate that was nearly 80 percent below the posted booking price of $1,200. McCulley said Friday the $250 rate was not a discount, but a new rate he decided to set for any events taking place on Monday nights, when the hall is rarely booked.

    I just simply went ahead and established that for Monday night, McCulley said. If the Democrats want to bring Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in here and have it Monday night, they are going to get exactly the same deal that McCain got.

    But council members and City Attorney Michael Kendrick said McCulley exceeded his authority. -- Homewood mayor says he has authority to set rental rates; council members disagree-

    April 24, 2008

    Alabama: Homewood mayor gives McCain 80% discount on city meeting space

    The Birmingham News reports: Republican presidential candidate John McCain got a deal when his campaign rented gathering space from the city of Homewood for a private fundraiser earlier this week.

    His campaign was given a discount of about 80 percent off the standard booking rate for Rosewood Hall. In September, Jefferson County Democrats rented the same facility and were charged the full rate.

    The McCain campaign was charged $250 to use two rooms in the hall, which normally would book for $1,200 on a weeknight. The campaign also was given free labor from Homewood City Jail inmates to set up tables and chairs for the event, avoiding a $100 set-up fee, but did pay a standard $50 cleaning fee.

    Homewood Mayor Barry McCulley said the rental rate was discounted because the event was on Monday, a slow day for business. City Council members say they always vote on such discounts but didn't get a say in this deal. They're upset, as are local Democrats. -- McCain campaign gets almost 80% off on Homewood gathering space, plus free labor from Homewood Jail inmates -

    April 12, 2008

    "Scotland on Sunday": "Carter and Gore to end Clinton bid"

    Scotland on Sunday reports: DEMOCRAT grandees Jimmy Carter and Al Gore are being lined-up to deliver the coup de grâce to Hillary Clinton and end her campaign to become president.
    Falling poll numbers and a string of high-profile blunders have convinced party elders that she must now bow out of the primary race.

    Former president Carter and former vice-president Gore have already held high-level discussions about delivering the message that she must stand down for the good of the Democrats.

    "They're in discussions," a source close to Carter told Scotland on Sunday. "Carter has been talking to Gore. They will act, possibly together, or in sequence."

    An appeal by both men for Democrats to unite behind Clinton's rival, Barack Obama, would have a powerful effect, and insiders say it is a question of when, rather than if, they act. --
    It s Obama, stupid: Carter and Gore to end Clinton bid - Scotland on Sunday

    Conservative 527 group fails to live up to its expectations

    The New York Times reports: The conservative group Freedom’s Watch, headlined by two former senior White House officials, had been expected to be a deep-pocketed juggernaut in this year’s presidential election, heralded by supporters on the right as an aggressive counterweight to, George Soros and the like.

    But after a splashy debut last summer, in which it spent $15 million in a nationwide advertising blitz supporting President Bush’s troop escalation in Iraq, the group has been mostly quiet, beset by internal problems that have paralyzed it and raised questions about what kind of role, if any, it will actually play this fall. ...

    Independent groups not constrained by the limits placed on campaign contributions to candidates and parties have increasingly become major players in races for federal offices. Those known as 527s, named for the section in the tax code they fall under, raised more than $400 million in the 2004 election cycle alone, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. Such efforts could be especially beneficial for Mr. McCain, who has badly trailed his Democratic counterparts in fund-raising. ...

    Although the organization was founded by a coterie of prominent conservative donors last year, the roughly $30 million the group has spent so far has come almost entirely from the casino mogul Sheldon G. Adelson, the chairman and chief executive of the Sands Corporation, who was recently listed as the third-richest person in the country by Forbes magazine.

    Mr. Adelson has insisted on parceling out his money project by project, as opposed to setting an overall budget, limiting the group’s ability to plan and be nimble, the Republican operatives said. Mr. Adelson, who has a reputation for being combative, has rejected almost all of the staff’s proposals that have been brought to him, leaving the organization moribund for long stretches, the operatives said. -- Great Expectations for a Conservative Group Seem All but Dashed

    Is Catalist an end-run around campaign finance laws?

    The New York Times reports: [Harold Ickes] is president of Catalist, a for-profit databank that has sold its voter files to the Obama and the Clinton presidential campaigns for their get-out-the-vote efforts. With his equity stake in the firm, Mr. Ickes stands to benefit financially no matter which candidate becomes the Democratic nominee.

    In creating Catalist, Mr. Ickes, who was deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House, has formed a rare entity on the political scene, a for-profit limited-liability corporation that allows wealthy Democratic donors to help progressive organizations and candidates by investing in the company. And if Catalist, which has data on 230 million Americans, is successful as a business, these donors-turned-investors stand to reap financial returns from using their money to help elect Democrats.

    But some campaign finance watchdogs say they wonder whether Catalist was established not so much to make money but to find a creative way to allow big-money liberal donors to influence the election without disclosing the degree of their involvement or being subjected to other rules that would govern spending by an explicitly political organization.

    Catalist has raised over $11 million in venture capital, including more than $1 million from the billionaire financier George Soros, according to his aides. It also counts on such large unions as the Service Employees International Union and the A.F.L.-C.I.O., to buy its products and create revenues. And it plans to be the go-to source for voter data for a broad swath of groups often aligned with Democrats — like the Sierra Club, Emily’s List and Clean Water Action — as they embark on ambitious get-out-the vote efforts this fall. -- Clinton Aide’s Databank Venture Breaks Ground in Politicking

    April 11, 2008

    West Virginia: arguments in case strict disclosure requirements for political ads

    The Charleston Gazette reports: Anonymous advertising in West Virginia political campaigns would open the door for a repeat of the 2004 Supreme Court race, where voters did not learn until later who was spending millions of dollars on behalf of candidates, several lawyers told a federal judge Wednesday.

    But the Center for Individual Freedom argued that West Virginia s election laws - which require the group to disclose its donors if it buys political advertising - violate its free speech rights under the First Amendment.

    The Virginia-based organization asked U.S. District Judge David A. Faber to grant it an injunction allowing it to advertise in the upcoming state Supreme Court election without disclosing its spending or its donors. The state s primary election is May 13.

    Last month, the center filed a lawsuit against the state s top election official, Secretary of State Betty Ireland. Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Boggess was also NAMEd in the suit as a representative of all the state s prosecutors.

    Three of the four Democratic candidates for state Supreme Court have joined in fighting the injunction, as have the West Virginia AFL-CIO, the state Education Association, the Council of Churches and other groups. -- Lawyers argue over rules for political ads

    March 18, 2008

    New Hampshire: Tobin acquitted of phone-jamming; US appeals

    The Union Leader reports: The U.S. Department of Justice is appealing the acquittal last month of former national Republican Party official James Tobin on telephone harassment charges stemming from the illegal GOP phone-jamming operation of Election Day, 2002.

    U.S. District Court Judge Steven McAuliffe cleared Tobin, of Bangor, Maine, on Feb. 21, saying that he had been constrained by a 2007 appeals court ruling to conclude Tobin was entitled to acquittal. McAuliffe predicted then that the legal question at issue would eventually be addressed by the appellate court.

    Federal prosecutors filed a notice of appeal this week.

    The appeals court a year ago overturned Tobin s 2005 conviction on two felony telephone harassment charges stemming from the phone-jamming scheme and sent the case back to McAuliffe s trial court for review of whether Tobin s role had fit the crime with which he had been charged and convicted. Tobin was not required to serve any of his 10-month prison sentence. -- - New Hampshire news - Appeals court called in Tobin acquittal - Saturday, Mar. 15, 2008

    February 16, 2008

    California: politics, death, taxes

    The Los Angeles Times reports: For the second time in six months, Buena Park pastor Wiley S. Drake has called on his followers to pray for the demise of leaders of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

    Last week, Drake learned that the IRS had launched an investigation into his endorsement of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee s presidential bid, an inquiry that Americans United had urged.

    The endorsement was written on church letterhead and announced during a church- affiliated Internet radio show. As tax-exempt organizations, churches are barred from campaigning for candidates. IRS officials declined to comment on the matter, citing privacy regulations.

    In an e-mail Thursday, Drake urged action against Americans United and the American Civil Liberties Union.

    As he had in August, Drake quoted Psalm 109, which speaks of wicked and deceitful people and asks God to let such a person s days be few and let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. -- Pastor again asks prayers for demise of group s leaders - Los Angeles Times

    February 14, 2008

    Clinton to press party to change delegate rules for Florida and Michigan

    The New York Times reports: Senator Barack Obama emerged from Tuesday’s primaries leading Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton by more than 100 delegates, a small but significant advantage that Democrats said would be difficult for Mrs. Clinton to make up in the remaining contests in the presidential nomination battle. ...

    With every delegate precious, Mrs. Clinton’s advisers also made it clear that they were prepared to take a number of potentially incendiary steps to build up Mrs. Clinton’s count. Top among these, her aides said, is pressing for Democrats to seat the disputed delegations from Florida and Michigan, who held their primaries in January in defiance of Democratic Party rules.

    Mrs. Clinton won more votes than Mr. Obama in both states, though both candidates technically abided by pledges not to campaign actively there.

    Mr. Obama’s aides reiterated their opposition to allowing Mrs. Clinton to claim a proportional share of the delegates from the voting in those states. The prospect of a fight over seating the Florida and Michigan delegations has already exposed deep divisions within the party. -- Obama’s Lead in Delegates Shifts Focus of Campaign

    February 13, 2008

    Colorful maps of the vote

    If you want to see the presidential primary results in colorful maps, go to Cogitamus: 2008 Super Duper Tsunami Tuesday Primary And Caucus Results Maps & Haiku

    52-48 win for Democratic presidential candidate predicted

    Jack Balkin writes on Balkinization: Yale economics professor Ray Fair has been predicting Presidential elections with only a handful of variables since the 1970's. He argues that economic news (in particular, a combination of inflation and growth) is the primary determinant of electoral success in Presidential elections. His simple formula, updated to the present, suggests that the Republicans are in for trouble. The model currently predicts a 52-48 victory for the Democrats, and with even greater margins if the economy continues to struggle. -- Balkinization

    Comment: I am always fascinated by these predictions because they seem to say that, no matter how many bumper stickers, yard signs, and telephone banks we have, a unseen hand writes the election results for us.

    February 3, 2008

    Rick Klau writes on his eponymous blog: It’s looking increasingly likely that the race for a nominee in the Democratic party will take some time to settle out… and the “super delegates” may actually have a hand in deciding who the Democratic nominee is.

    If you don’t know what a “super delegate” is, don’t worry – a lot of people don’t. Each state has a number of “pledged” delegates – these are the delegates chosen during the primary or caucus. (I’m simplifying, but that’s more or less the case.) In the Democratic party, those delegates are awarded on a proportional basis – if a candidate gets 50% of the vote, they’ll get 50% of that state’s delegates (Again, there’s a bit more to it, but for purposes of this discussion, that’ll do.)

    In addition to the 3200 pledged delegates, there are another 800 delegates who are “unpledged”. Made up of elected officials (Senators, Representatives, former presidents) and party officials (state chairs and the like), these so-called “super delegates” get a vote at the convention, and make up 20% of the vote. In past years, these super delegates basically get a ticket to the convention to participate in the formality of “choosing” a nominee… but the nominee became a de facto nominee by winning so many primaries and caucuses that noone else had any mathematical possibility of getting enough delegates to win the nomination. ...

    In an attempt to shed some light on this process, I built a site over the weekend – Starting with a terrific list provided by the guys who maintain DemConWatch, I started filling in a little info about the super delegates and linking to their endorsement (if given). After finding a great extension to MediaWiki (KMLExport, in case you’re interested), I was also able to add in geo coordinates (latitude and longitude) to the delegate pages, so that you can see the delegates in a Google Earth layer. -- - Learn about the DNC Super Delegates

    Note: Democratic Party rules require delegates to be selected in each Congressional District. So a candidate getting 60% of the vote in a CD will receive about 60% of the delegates for that CD. The number of delegates per CD in Alabama ranges from 4 to 7, based on the vote for President in 2004 and Governor in 2006.

    February 1, 2008

    "Money matters, but it doesn't decide"

    AP reports: Money helped winnow the presidential field. It hasn't determined who each party's nominee will be.

    Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have proven to be mega-fundraisers, operating at near parity in their own stratosphere. Each raised $100 million last year and spent at least $80 million. On Wednesday, they each spent $1.3 million in one day for television ads in Super Tuesday states, setting the trend for the days ahead.

    Whoever loses has not yet been seriously outspent.

    Among Republicans, money has been less of a factor. John McCain was forced to live off the land for six months only to rise to the front of the pack. Low-budget Mike Huckabee is looking for a break, and Mitt Romney, the multimillionaire who spent $35 million of his own cash, is gasping for oxygen after two straight losses.

    Rudy Giuliani, who garnered the most contributions among Republican candidates, bowed out this week after his Florida-centric strategy collapsed. And dark horse Ron Paul remains in single digits in the polls despite raising more than any of his Republican rivals in the last three months of 2007.

    Money matters, but it doesn't decide. -- Analysis: Political Money Not the Be - All - New York Times

    January 29, 2008

    Alabama: historic win by black candidate

    The Cullman Times reports: Democrats appear to be headed for a historic win by James Fields in the Alabama House District 12 special election With 20 of 38 precincts reporting, Fields leads his Republican opponent, Wayne Willingham, with 1,929 votes to 1,386. If Fields wins, he will be the first African-American elected to represent Cullman County at the state level. --, Cullman, Alabama - Homepage

    Doc's Political Parlor quotes a Republican, "Fields won by a significant margin."

    According to the official data, H.D. 12 was 1.60% black in 2000. Yes, less than 2%.

    That sound you hear is pigs flying.

    California: Wanted -- unmotivated, suspicious voters

    The New York Times reports: The conventional political wisdom in delegate-rich California is that the roughly three million registered voters without a party affiliation are ripe for the picking by the Democratic candidates for president.

    Democrats began allowing independents to participate in their party’s presidential primary in 2004, and campaigns now see them — the fastest-growing group of registrants in California — as potentially pushing a candidate over the top in the primary on Feb. 5. ...

    (Republicans only allow their own party members to vote; the state’s American Independent Party also allows decline-to-state voters to cast ballots in its primary, but the party’s presence is very small.) ...

    It is also true that decline-to-state voters must be quite motivated — and knowledgeable — to cast a ballot in the Democratic primary. The voters must ask for a Democratic ballot at their polling station; otherwise, they are provided with a nonpartisan ballot that has statewide measures only. -- California’s Unaffiliated Voters Are Sometimes Unreachable

    January 28, 2008

    "Low complexity wins elections"

    The Washington Post reports: Mitt Romney wants to round up 12 million illegal immigrants and deport them. John Edwards wants to put an end to lobbyists. All the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates rail against the ways of Washington.

    The question is not whether we agree with these views: Politicians stake out such positions precisely because they strike a chord with many voters. The question is why we like our bromides so simple -- especially when the same promises have been offered to us time and again in previous elections.

    In an unusual study analyzing State of the Union addresses like the one President Bush will give tonight, psychologists found a curious pattern in the speeches delivered by 41 U.S. presidents. The pattern explains a lot about why politicians such as Romney and Edwards talk to voters the way they do.

    The study found that in the first three years after a new president takes office, his speeches displayed higher levels of complexity compared with addresses in the fourth year in office. In the first three speeches, presidents were more likely to acknowledge other points of view, potential pitfalls and unintended consequences. In the fourth year, however -- as they were about to run for reelection -- the complexity of their speeches plunged. -- Shankar Vedantam - The Science of Presidential Complexity -

    "Races Entering Complex Phase Over Delegates"

    The New York Times reports: The presidential campaign is entering a new phase as Democratic and Republican candidates move beyond state-by-state competition and into a potentially protracted scramble for delegates Congressional district by Congressional district. ...

    It is the first time in over 20 years in which the campaign has turned into a possibly lengthy hunt for delegates, rather than an effort to roll up a string of big-state victories.

    This development reflects the competitive races in both parties, with neither a Republican nor a Democrat yet able to claim front-runner status. It has forced the campaigns to master complex delegate-allocation rules as they make a series of critical decisions about how best to allocate campaign resources to produce the greatest return of delegates.

    Many of these decisions involve as little as a single delegate. ...

    For Republicans, this means, for example, turning to approximately 10 heavily Democratic Congressional districts in California where there are relatively few registered Republicans, making it easier, and less expensive, to win a district and its three delegates. Both Senator John McCain of Arizona and Mr. Romney are heading there on Wednesday.

    For Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Mr. Obama, it means investing resources — mailings, telephone banks and candidate visits — in Congressional districts where there are an odd number of delegates at stake, creating an opportunity to pick up an extra delegate.

    Under Democratic rules, two candidates who do well in a Congressional district are likely to end up evenly dividing the delegates; where there is an odd number of delegates, the extra one goes to the candidate who wins more votes. -- Races Entering Complex Phase Over Delegates - New York Times

    January 23, 2008

    Georgia: Obama asks for investigation of pro-Obama robo-calls

    AP reports: The heated racial politics in the Feb. 5 Democratic primary in Georgia just got turned up a notch.

    Barack Obama's campaign has asked Georgia's attorney general to investigate anonymous "robocalls" made to Atlanta-area residents taking aim at Rep. John Lewis, who worked closely with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement.

    Lewis is supporting Obama's chief rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The calls urge listeners to call Lewis and tell the congressman, who represents King's hometown, to support a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, according to a transcript.

    Obama's camp wasted no time denying responsibility for the automated calls. In an e-mail to supporters Tuesday, Obama's Georgia director, Eureka Gilkey, said they had received "disturbing reports" about the calls from metro-Atlanta area residents. -- Obama camp asks Georgia AG to investigate calls attacking Lewis

    January 14, 2008

    Nevada: judge says, let Kucinich in

    AP reports: A Nevada judge said Monday that Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich must be included in Tuesday's candidates' debate in Nevada. ...

    The judge sided with a lawyer for the Ohio congressman, who says debate host MSNBC at first invited Kucinich to take part and then told him last week he couldn't.

    A lawyer for the network said MSNBC decided to go with the top three candidates after the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. -- Talking Points Memo | TPM News Headlines

    I'm glad to find out what we election lawyers are good for

    Allen Raymond, author of "How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative," writes on TPM Cafe: As a Republican campaign operative at the Republican National Committee it was drilled into me that election law attorneys serve the purpose identifying the bright line of the law so it could be taunted but not crossed. Anybody who has a problem with that or doesn’t get it doesn’t understand America. America is about self interest, within the rule of law. That’s where I erred. -- Morality vs. Politics and My Job as a GOP Operative

    January 11, 2008

    Forget eHarmony, got to VoteMatch

    Find Your Candidate: VoteMatch - TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime
    Jeralyn writes on TalkLeft: Courtesy of the Dutch, you can answer a quick 25 questions and find the top Democrat (or Republican) that most closely matches your positions on issues -- you can even rank the issues in terms of importance to you before they calculate the final results.

    Comment: Like Jeralyn, I came out with Edwards, Clinton, Obama, and like several commenters, I was amazed that Clinton was higher on my list than Obama.

    January 1, 2008

    "Outside Groups Spend Heavily and Visibly to Sway ’08 Races"

    The New York Times reports: Spurred by a recent Supreme Court decision, independent political groups are using their financial muscle and organizational clout as never before to influence the presidential race, pumping money and troops into early nominating states on behalf of their favored candidates.

    Iowans have been bombarded over the last few days with radio spots supporting John Edwards that were paid for by a group affiliated with locals of the Service Employees International Union, which just kicked in $800,000 — on top of $760,000 already spent.

    Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, rolled across Iowa on Monday in a customized black-and-gold bus emblazoned with his picture and the logo of the International Association of Firefighters, which has spent several hundred thousand dollars supporting him. And at campaign events in Iowa, backers in A.F.S.C.M.E. union shirts turned out Monday to show their support for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York. Those appearances come in addition to the union’s $770,000 advertising campaign promoting her candidacy.

    The groups are prohibited from coordinating their efforts with the campaigns. But the candidates, while often distancing themselves from these efforts, certainly benefit from their activities. Iowa airwaves have been filled with commercials from these groups as they take advantage of the June ruling that lifted a ban on broadcast messages from independent groups within 30 days of a primary or caucus.

    Independent groups also act as a vehicle for negative advertising that campaigns are reluctant to engage in. The Club for Growth, for instance, has spent $700,000 so far, largely on broadcast spots here and in other early voting states that criticize Mike Huckabee’s record on taxes while he was Arkansas governor, an effort that has received several hundred thousands of dollars from an Arkansas political rival of Mr. Huckabee, a Republican. -- Outside Groups Spend Heavily and Visibly to Sway ’08 Races

    December 31, 2007

    Iowa: Obama's GOTV operation

    The Washington Post reports: In Sen. Barack Obama's Iowa headquarters, young staff members sit at computers, analyzing online voter data and targeting potential backers. They zip one e-mail to an undecided voter and zap a different message to a firm supporter. ...

    If the Internet is like a big grocery store, Obama's aides made sure he appeared on every aisle. As some campaign workers built mailing lists and telephone trees according to political, professional and personal interests, others created the first groups and profiles on sites as varied as Eons, the MySpace for baby boomers, and LinkedIn, a site mostly for white-collar professionals.

    They also used,, and -- the MySpace and Facebook for, respectively, the African American, Latino, Asian and gay online communities. They have posted more than 350 videos on his YouTube channel, twice as many as Clinton, and his videos have been viewed nearly twice as often as hers. Obama has more MySpace friends than any other Democratic candidate, and he lists more Facebook supporters than all other Democrats combined.

    Looking ahead to caucus day, the campaign is setting up a "catch-all queue," in which caucus-goers could get an answer within minutes after texting a question such as "Where's my precinct in Des Moines?" -- Obama Tries New Tactics To Get Out Vote in Iowa -

    Note: Another Post story explains that because of caucus rules, even one vote may make a difference as to who wins a delegate in a particular caucus.

    But I wonder which numbers the networks will report -- the raw numbers or the number of delegates won? Or both?

    December 27, 2007

    It's the box office, baby

    An AP story begins: Dig beneath the surface of the raucous Republican presidential race and you will find even deeper turmoil: Four in 10 GOP voters have switched candidates in the past month alone, and nearly two-thirds say they may change their minds again.

    Well, folks, that's all about the change. Every Monday morning, I read the little article on page 2 of the Birmingham News about the "winners" of the weekend box office grosses for movies. Sometimes I have seen one of those movies, many time not. But even if it came in on top of the charts, I am not going to see "Alien vs. Predator: Requiem." On the other hand, if I a movie I want to see is not doing well, I may never get to see it. I recently have had to go far afield to the one theater in the area showing a particular movie. It might be gone within a week or two.

    The same goes for the primary field. You can read pundit after pundit telling you that if Candidate X does not do well in the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary, Candidate X's campaign will be toast. Before I get to vote in the Alabama primary on 5 February, the "box office" in faraway Iowa or New Hampshire may have decided that show won't open in Alabama.

    As the new movie title (I have not seen the movie yet) says, "There will be blood."

    December 6, 2007

    Robo-calls may be irritating, but should they be regulated?

    CQ Politics reports: Prerecorded calls offering negative information about every Republican presidential hopeful except former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee caused a bit of an furor in Iowa this week, and Congress just might keep stirring the pot.

    The House Administration Subcommittee on Elections is considering whether political dial-a-voter messages ought to abide by the same “do not call” list limits as commercial telemarketers. Lawmakers are concerned that some groups are using the calls to deliberately mislead voters and that the abuse could depress voter turnout.

    A spokesman for Zoe Lofgren , D-Calif., the subcommittee’s chairwoman, said she may try to add such a provision to a pending bill (HR 1383) seeking stricter limits on the so-called robo-calls.

    During a hearing Thursday, Lofgren said a Pew Internet and American Life Project report indicated that roughly two-thirds of Americans received the prerecorded calls during the weeks preceding last year’s election. -- Congress Takes New Legislative Interest in Political ‘Robo-Calls'

    November 22, 2007

    Alabama: AAUW launches "Ready to Run" for female canidates

    Alabama's American Association of University Women to launch Ready to Run program to elect more women to office-
    The Birmingham News reports: In recent years, Alabama women have run for such high-profile elective offices as governor, U.S. senator, lieutenant governor and the mayor's chairs in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville.

    More women lost than won in those races, and more men still seek and win elective office in Alabama. But an effort is under way to change all that.

    The Alabama chapter of the American Association of University Women has organized an effort called Ready to Run that will kick off next year with the goal to train and encourage more women to run for office and seek other government leadership positions. ...

    While women have made inroads to the once almost all-male world of elective office in Alabama, a survey late last year showed Alabama with the fourth-lowest percentage of women legislators among the 50 states. That survey, performed by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, showed only South Carolina, Kentucky and Oklahoma with lower percentages of women in their legislatures than Alabama.

    November 19, 2007

    Kos himself quotes on Daily Kos from a press release: The Washington State Democratic Party today filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission regarding serious violations of election law by Congressman Dave Reichert.

    On August 27, 2007, President Bush held a $1,000 a head fundraiser in Bellevue on behalf of Congressman Reichert, the proceeds of which were supposed to be placed into a special joint account that would then be divided between the Reichert campaign and the Washington State Republican Party. Instead, much of the money appears to have been deposited directly in Congressman Reichert’s campaign account, a serious violation of FEC rules. The Reichert campaign has also failed to refund at least one contribution in excess of the $4,600 campaign contribution limit for individual donors. -- WA-08: The Reichert/Bush fundraising disaster

    November 18, 2007

    Mississippi: the prosecution of Judge Wes Teel

    Casey Ann has a long impassioned post at Cotton Mouth about the conviction of Judge Wes Teel in Mississippi. I won't even attempt to summarize it. Just read it.

    Adam Lynch has a long story about the same set of prosecutions in the Jackson Free Press.

    November 8, 2007

    Alabama: "Founding Father" of Alabama GOP dies

    The Birmingham News reports: Birmingham lawyer John Grenier, considered by many the founding father of the modern-day Alabama Republican Party, has died.

    Mr. Grenier, 77, died at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center on Tuesday.

    "I think it is true to say that John was certainly among the founding fathers, if not the founding father, of the Republican Party we see in Alabama today," said former U.S. Rep. Jack Edwards of Mobile. -- John Grenier, Birmingham lawyer, state GOP pioneer, dies at 77-

    October 31, 2007

    Ron Paul and the invasion of spam bots

    From a UAB press release: Anti-spam researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) noted a disturbing new trend following Sunday's Republican Candidates Presidential debate. One of the candidates has a new spam campaign dedicated to proclaiming him victorious in the debate and extolling his virtues as the future president.

    There is no reason to believe the current spam campaign is actually endorsed by Ron Paul or his official campaign engine, according to Gary Warner, UAB Director of Research in Computer Forensics, ...

    The new messages have headlines such as:

    Ron Paul Wins GOP Debate!
    Ron Paul Eliminates the IRS!
    Ron Paul Stops Iraq War!
    Vote Ron Paul 2008!
    Iraq Scam Exposed, Ron Paul
    Government Wasteful Spending Eliminated By Ron Paul

    Warner says, "We've seen many previous emails reported as spam from other campaigns or parties, but when we've investigated them, they all were sent from the legitimate parties." The important distinction between the new emails and previous emails, Warner says, is the fraudulent nature of the message. Legitimate messages tell who they are from, and provide a means of "unsubscribing" from future messages from the same source. -- "Ron Paul Spammers" Targeted by UAB Spam Team

    October 18, 2007

    "Newest Factor for Earlier Primaries: Grinch Effect"

    The New York Times reports: Oh, the Christmas season: the scent of eggnog, the sounds of sleigh bells, the good cheer — and all those slashing political attack ads, hard-hitting mailings, pre-recorded candidate phone calls and intrusive, get-out-the-vote drives?

    With the first voting now scheduled to take place right after the first of the year, the presidential candidates are hurriedly making plans to cope with the challenge of conducting all-out campaigns smack in the middle of the holidays. Unlike previous elections, there will be no real buffer this time between the family gathering, bowl-game-watching (and drinking) tradition of the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day and the initial presidential contests in the early voting states.

    On Tuesday night, the Iowa Republican Party decided to hold its caucuses on Jan. 3. It is the earliest that the party caucuses there have been scheduled since Iowa established its general position 36 years ago as the first state to vote in the national nominating contest, and it put pressure on the Democrats in Iowa to settle on the same schedule. The previous earliest date for the Iowa caucuses was Jan. 19, in the 1976 campaign. ...

    Do the candidates need to unleash their advertising campaigns earlier than they otherwise would have? Will anyone show up if the candidates schedule town hall meetings in Iowa and New Hampshire right after Christmas?

    How will candidates allocate their time if only a few days separate the Iowa caucuses from the New Hampshire primary? And will voters think poorly of candidates for running negative television commercials between feel-good spots starring Santa or the local news team singing while dressed as elves? -- Newest Factor for Earlier Primaries: Grinch Effect

    October 14, 2007

    The results are in: Democrats win the Presidency, 2008

    Allan Lichtman writes on History News Network: The election for president is more than a year away. Neither major party has as yet chosen a nominee. Yet the results of the 2008 election are already in: the Democrats will recapture the White House next fall, whether they nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama, John Edwards, or Bill Richardson. Only an unprecedented cataclysmic change in American politics during the next year could salvage Republican hopes.

    This good news for Democrats and grim news for Republicans comes from the “Keys to the White House,” a historically based prediction system that I developed in 1981, in collaboration with Volodia Keilis-Borok, an authority on the mathematics of prediction models.

    The Keys retrospectively accurately account for the popular vote winners of every presidential election from 1860 through 1980 and prospectively forecast the winners of every presidential election from 1984 through 2004. The keys model predicted George W. Bush’s reelection in April 2003. -- Allan Lichtman: The 13 Keys to the White House ... Why the Democrats will take back the White House

    October 7, 2007

    Washington State: Lies, damn lies, and politicians

    The New York Times reports: Not that they need encouragement, but politicians were given the green light to lie about their opponents by the Washington Supreme Court the other day.

    More than a dozen states have laws that make it unlawful to say false things about political candidates. The laws are, in practice, mainly aspirational. By a 5-to-4 vote on Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court added that the law in that state was also unconstitutional.

    “The notion that the government, rather than the people, may be the final arbiter of truth in political debate is fundamentally at odds with the First Amendment,” Justice James M. Johnson wrote for four of the justices in the majority. A dissenting justice, Barbara A. Madsen, wrote that “the majority’s decision is an invitation to lie with impunity.”

    Justice Madsen added that the decision would help turn “political campaigns into contests of the best stratagems of lies and deceit, to the end that honest discourse and honest candidates are lost in the maelstrom.” -- Law on Lies by Politicians Is Found Unconstitutional - New York Times

    October 4, 2007

    California: proxy war by Gulliani and Clinton over initiative to split electoral vote

    The New York Times reports: Supporters of Rudolph W. Giuliani and of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton are embroiled in their first major affray of the political season over a ballot initiative on presidential electoral votes some 2,500 miles from the pancake houses of Skaneateles, N.Y., and the fire stations of Queens. ...

    The proposed measure here would ask voters to apportion electoral votes by Congressional district, potentially giving the 2008 Republican nominee 20 of the state’s 55 votes — the rough equivalent of winning Illinois or Pennsylvania — in this otherwise reliably Democratic state. ...

    Started by a Republican lawyer in California, the measure has been driven almost entirely by people who are associated with or have given money to Mr. Giuliani’s presidential campaign.

    The effort to kill the initiative — executed with a swift fierceness almost unheard of for an initiative in such an early stage — has been led by a bevy of Clinton supporters, including a former Clinton White House official, prominent elected Democratic supporters and one of Mrs. Clinton’s most prolific fund-raisers. -- In Ballot Fight, California Gets a Taste of ’08

    October 1, 2007

    Christian group threatens 3rd party effort

    The New York Times reports: Alarmed at the possibility that the Republican Party might pick Rudolph W. Giuliani as its presidential nominee despite his support for abortion rights, a coalition of influential Christian conservatives is threatening to back a third-party candidate.

    The threat emerged from a group that broke away for separate discussions at a meeting Saturday in Salt Lake City of the Council for National Policy, a secretive conservative networking group. Participants said the smaller group included James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, who is perhaps its most influential member; Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; Richard A. Viguerie, the direct-mail pioneer; and dozens of other politically oriented conservative Christians.

    Almost everyone present at the smaller group’s meeting expressed support for a written resolution stating that “if the Republican Party nominates a pro-abortion candidate we will consider running a third-party candidate,” participants said. -- Giuliani Inspires Threat of a Third-Party Run - New York Times

    September 27, 2007

    Virginia: GOP candidate may have violated federal law by deceptive mailing

    Update: The front and back of the envelope and mailer are here. Thanks to Steve Wilson for sending them.

    The Washington Post reports: Last week, Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R-Fairfax) sent voters a manila envelope that bore the warning: "Notice: Your new Fairfax County income tax payment is due."

    The sender, identified in bold letters, was the "Fairfax County Income Tax Authority."

    There is no such branch of the county government, nor is there a county income tax.

    When voters opened up the envelope, they found a flier from Cuccinelli attacking his Democratic opponent, Janet S. Oleszek, on taxes.

    Cuccinelli charged Oleszek, a member of the Fairfax County School Board, with supporting the creation of a state sales tax on Internet purchases. ...

    "It's just an attention gimmick. Political campaigns are marketing campaigns," Cuccinelli said. "People who have some degree of consternation by suddenly thinking they have a local income tax bill will remember that piece. The fact people remember it means that piece will be a success."

    But the Oleszek campaign wants to know whether Cuccinelli's mailing violates the federal Deceptive Mailings Prevention Act of 1990.

    Cuccinelli said the literature is legal because his name is on the outside of the envelope. -- Campaign Tactics Producing Angry Voters in Record Time -

    Note: The statute is 39 USC 3001(h). The disclosure required is:
    such matter bears on its face, in conspicuous and legible type in contrast by typography, layout, or color with other printing on its face, in accordance with regulations which the Postal Service shall prescribe, the following notice: “THIS PRODUCT OR SERVICE HAS NOT BEEN APPROVED OR ENDORSED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, AND THIS OFFER IS NOT BEING MADE BY AN AGENCY OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.”, or a notice to the same effect in words which the Postal Service may prescribe...

    I will be happy to post a copy of the envelope if the Cuccinelli campaign will send me one.

    July 13, 2007

    Alabama: felony counts against Worley dismissed by judge

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: A Montgomery Circuit Court judge Wednesday threw out felony charges against former Secretary of State Nancy Worley, saying the statute governing the use of office to influence elections is too broad.

    The state Attorney General's Office, which brought the charges against Worley, said it would immediately appeal Judge Truman Hobbs Jr.'s decision. ...

    The Attorney General's Office based the felony charges on a statute that makes it unlawful for an official to use his or her office to influence "the vote or political action of any person."

    The letter Worley distributed included an envelope and a bumper sticker and said Worley would be "honored" if employees contributed time or money to her campaign, adding that there would not be payback if they chose not to do so.

    Worley's attorneys argued the statute was so broad that any elected official could be charged with a felony by referring to their office during a political campaign. -- Worley felony counts tossed-

    July 10, 2007

    Alabama: judge questions felony charges against Worley

    The Birmingham News reports: The circuit judge who will preside over the trial of former Alabama Secretary of State Nancy Worley questioned Monday whether she should face felony charges.

    Montgomery County Circuit Judge Truman Hobbs Jr. said the law that Attorney General Troy King's office is using to bring felony charges against Worley is vague and overbroad.

    "I'm real worried that this statute ... potentially criminalizes a lot of everyday conduct that happens all over the country," Hobbs said in a pre-trial meeting with defense attorneys and prosecutors. ...

    The felony charges stem from another part of the same section of law, which says, "No person shall attempt to use his or her official authority or position for the purpose of influencing the vote or political action of any person." A violation is punishable by a $10,000 fine and two years in prison.

    Hobbs said that under the section, a state official could face a misdemeanor charge for asking a subordinate for a $50,000 campaign contribution but face a felony charge for asking someone to put up a yard sign. -- Judge questions Worley charges-

    June 25, 2007

    Is Bloomberg running? And for what?

    From the Sunday New York Times' Week in Review: MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG of New York insisted yet again last week that he did not intend to run for president in 2008, even as he left the Republican Party to become an independent. Then, on Friday, he tweaked his language somewhat, simply saying, “I’m not going to be president.”

    Which opens the door to a Swiftian modest proposal, one that might appeal to any billionaire independent presidential candidate who knows the art of a deal: Rather than try to win the White House outright — a long shot — an independent candidate could instead try for a king-making (or queen-making) bloc of votes in the Electoral College.

    In doing so, a moneyed candidate like Mr. Bloomberg could advance his post-partisan national agenda — and gain a great deal of power — by introducing coalition politics to America’s system of government, through a power-sharing plan that catapults either the Republican or Democratic nominee to the presidency. Here’s how it might work:

    With the nation divided into red and blue as it has been in the last two presidential elections, all a rich, self-financed candidate would have to do is win a big state (or two) to ensure having a king-making bloc of electoral votes: say, Florida (the decisive state in 2000), or Ohio (2004), or maybe New York (Mr. Bloomberg’s home state), or California (that of his friend, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger). -- President? Or Kingmaker?

    April 25, 2007

    Hanging up on robocalls

    The New York Times reports: State investigators here are still trying to figure out who sabotaged Scott Kleeb’s campaign for Congress last November with a barrage of automated telephone calls to voters. The unauthorized calls, officials said, distorted Mr. Kleeb’s views and even used a recording of his voice — sometimes arriving in the middle of the night — with the greeting: “Hi, this is Scott Kleeb!”

    Several Nebraska state lawmakers were so outraged by the shenanigans that they are pushing legislation that would impose some of the country’s most restrictive regulations on prerecorded campaign calls, both bogus and legitimate ones. Similar bills are in the works in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin and at least a dozen other states, prompted in large part by telephone calls authorized by campaigns during last year’s elections. ...

    Nearly two-thirds of registered voters nationwide received the recorded telephone messages, which as political calls are exempt from federal do-not-call rules, leading up to the November elections, according to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, an independent research group. The calls, often known as robocalls, were the second most popular form of political communication, trailing only direct mail, the group said. ...

    The automated phone calls, have been popular with candidates for years because they are cheap, easy to make and often highly effective. The Federal Communications Commission has rules requiring the callers to state their identity at the beginning of the message. A spokesman, Clyde Ensslin, said the commission had taken action against violators, but it did not separate political calls from commercial ones. -- States Seek Limits on ‘Robocalls’ in Campaigns

    April 15, 2007

    A (sort of) argument for partisan gerrymandering

    Scott Keyes writes on Poltical Insider: Congressmen who hail from competitive districts are forced to run challenging reelection campaigns every two years, which in turn leaves them better prepared for the difficulties associated with a bid for higher office, right? That is, the closer a district's PVI is to zero, the better chance that congressman has of waging a successful bid for governor or senator because they must constantly win difficult elections and hone their campaigning skills in the process. Practice makes perfect.

    However, looking at data from all the election since the 2000 redistricting, this does not appear to be the case. Congressmen from competitive districts do not appear to have any more success in their bids for higher office than those from non-competitive districts. Since 2002, 36 sitting congressmen have ran for higher office, half of whom won. However, representatives from competitive districts - those with a PVI of between D 5 and R 5 - were considerably less successful, winning just five of their thirteen races. Even in those states that swing states that Kerry or Bush carried with less than 55% of the vote, representatives from competitive districts won just three races and lost six. ...

    Two possible reasons come to mind that would explain why representatives from competitive districts don't win their campaigns for higher office at a greater rate than other congressmen. First, if a representative must run a difficult race every two years, he or she has little opportunity to amass a large amount of money that would help in his or her bid for higher office. -- Political Insider: Competitive Districts Not a Stepping Stone for Higher Office

    April 11, 2007

    Alabama: Spina fined for false political ad

    The Birmingham News reports: A political consultant from Vestavia Hills admitted Tuesday to misdemeanor crimes that he ran a false ad during the 2006 Jefferson County Commission primary race, and he failed to register a political action committee.

    Rick Spina, 48, said he pleaded guilty rather than going through the expense and trouble of fighting the charges in court.

    The ad linked Jim Carns, a state legislator running for County Commission, with a slate of candidates headed by ousted Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was running for governor.

    The ad, which ran May 31 in The Birmingham News, said it was funded by a "political organization" called the Assembly of Republicans. -- Consultant fined for false 2006 political ad

    April 9, 2007

    Edwards campaign modifies its website to allow opt-out

    Mary Ann Akers writes on the Wash. Post blog The Sleuth: John Edwards's presidential campaign has modified its online fundraising approach to give visitors an "opt-out" option if they are just trying to send a sympathy note to Elizabeth Edwards about her cancer recurrence.

    The change reflects an apparent attempt to separate the handling of Mrs. Edwards's illness from the incessant need for money to fund her husband's campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. The adjustment comes after The Sleuth reported last week that the Edwards campaign was soliciting contributions from people who sent sympathy notes to Elizabeth Edwards through the Edwards campaign Web site. -- Edwards Campaign Modifies Online Fundraising Practice - The Sleuth

    March 23, 2007

    Scotland: who wants to run the country? -- SNP

    In the years before the Scottish Parliament was established, I always thought of the Scottish National Party as a party working for the independence of Scotland. Perhaps I was wrong. Let's look at what they are campaigning on now.

    The SNP still talks about independence (and it is linked from the home page), but the three main issues mentioned on its home page are:

  • It's time to dump student debt.
  • It's time to keep healthcare local.
  • It's time for a government Scotland can trust.
  • Will the SNP push independence if it wins the election? The Sunday Herald reports:

    A NATIONALIST-LED Executive at Holyrood [*] would stage an independence referendum in its first term, according to SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon.

    In a keynote speech to her party's conference in Glasgow yesterday, Sturgeon denied reports last week that the SNP would "park" their principal policy.

    Where does the SNP get its campaign funds? I will have to track that down, but a big donation just came from a controversial source. Again, as reported in the Sunday Herald:

    SNP LEADER Alex Salmond was last night accused of pandering to "homophobia" by accepting a Ł500,000 donation from an anti-gay businessman.

    The SNP yesterday confirmed that Brian Souter, who financed a high-profile campaign to keep Section 28, which banned "promoting" homo-sexuality in schools, was bankrolling their election hopes with a cheque for Ł500,000.

    Can the SNP win? In early March, Angus Reid Global Monitor, a polling organization reported:

    The Scottish National Party (SNP) remains the top political organization in Scotland, according to a poll by ICM Research published in The Scotsman. 34 per cent of respondents would give their local vote to the SNP in this year’s Scottish Parliament ballot.

    The figures for all the parties were as follows (the first figure is for the local constituency vote, the second for the regional vote):

    Scottish National Party ........34% 32%
    Scottish Labour ...................29% 28%
    Scottish Conservatives .......16% 15%
    Scottish Liberal Democrats ..16% 17%
    Scottish Green ........................ -- 5%

    [*] "Holyrood" is the location of the Scottish Parliament.

    March 21, 2007

    Help a graduate student -- take a survey

    Exploring the Role of Internet Advertising in American Politics

    This survey is designed to help us understand what Americans like you think about internet advertising, modern campaigns, and politics. We are very interested in your thoughts on this matter and greatly appreciate your participation.

    Click here to take the survey:

    March 12, 2007

    The National Primary has campaigns scrambling

    Adam Nagourney begins his reports in the New York Times with a mixed metaphor:
    The trickle of states moving their 2008 presidential primaries to Feb. 5 has turned into an avalanche, forcing all the presidential campaigns to reconsider every aspect of their nominating strategy — where to compete, how to spend money, when to start television advertising — as they gird for the prospect of a 20-state national Primary Day.

    In the last two weeks, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, dispatched the director of his political action committee to run his primary campaign in California, where a bill to move the primary to Feb. 5 is on the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat, announced that he had won the endorsement of Richard J. Codey, a former acting governor of New Jersey, testimony to the state’s new status as it readies to shift its primary to Feb. 5 from June.

    Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, held a rally the other day in Texas, and aides to Rudolph W. Giuliani, the New York Republican, said staff members would be sent to California, Florida and Missouri, as both candidates prepare for expected Feb. 5 primaries in those states. ...

    For the most part, the candidates and their aides cannot quite figure out what all this turmoil means for them. The changes, which are shaping up to be the most substantial alteration ever to a campaign calendar in a single election cycle, have heightened the volatility of the most wide-open presidential race in 50 years, one with large and well-financed fields of contenders. -- Early Primary Rush Upends ’08 Campaign Plans - New York Times

    March 5, 2007

    Idaho: bill to regulate robocalls introduced

    AP reports: Many state lawmakers around the country want to slam down the receiver on pesky automated phone calls like the ones that interrupted suppers before last November's election.

    On Thursday, Idaho joined Missouri, Maryland, Florida, Connecticut, Nebraska, Tennessee and North Carolina, among other states, which since November have agitated for more oversight over automatic dialing-announcing devices, or "robocalls."

    A bill in the Idaho House would require political and charitable organizations at the start of every automated call to disclose who is behind the message, and how they can be reached. Sponsors say giving those on the other end of the line more information allows them to choose to listen further -- or hang up. ...

    A handful of states, including Indiana, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Minnesota and Arkansas, already have laws restricting political robocalls. -- Idaho Legislature: Bill would limit 'robocalls'

    February 22, 2007

    Missouri: ban on robo-calls approved by senate

    AP reports: After an election season of automated calls and constituent complaints, senators voted Tuesday to restrict how politicians campaign.

    The Senate by voice vote approved a bill that would expand the state's no-call list to include "robo-calls" from automatic dialing machines. The list, which is managed and enforced by the attorney general, also would be expanded to cover cell phone calls and text messages and faxes, along with traditional land-line telephone calls.

    Sponsoring Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said the bill expands protections for those who already have said they do not want to be called.

    The bill would require a dialer to ask permission to play a recorded message and a declaration of who is paying for political solicitations. Those paying for the messages would also need to register with a state ethics commission or the Federal Election Commission. -- Senate approves bill restricting robo-calls

    February 8, 2007

    John Edwards will keep the bloggers

    Political Insider has the statement of Sen. Edwards on the blogger controvery. -- Political Insider: Edwards Statement on Bloggers

    February 7, 2007

    Media Matters rebuts criticism of Edwards campaign

    Media Matters says on its website: The New York Times and Associated Press have both reported criticism by Catholic League president Bill Donohue of two bloggers hired by John Edwards' presidential campaign; Donohue contends that the bloggers are "anti-Catholic, vulgar, trash-talking bigots."

    But neither the Times article, by reporter John M. Broder, nor the AP article, by writer Nedra Pickler, included any mention of Donohue's own history of vulgar, trash-talking bigotry -- or of Donohue's decision to dismiss anti-Catholic bigotry on the part of a key anti-Kerry operative in 2004. -- Media Matters - NY Times, AP reported Donohue's criticism of Edwards campaign bloggers -- but ignored Donohue's own controversial comments and inconsistent outrage

    Catholic League complains about Edwards' blogger hires

    The New York Times reports: Two bloggers hired by John Edwards to reach out to liberals in the online world have landed his presidential campaign in hot water for doing what bloggers do — expressing their opinions in provocative and often crude language.

    The Catholic League, a conservative religious group, is demanding that Mr. Edwards dismiss the two, Amanda Marcotte of the Pandagon blog site and Melissa McEwan, who writes on her blog, Shakespeare’s Sister, for expressing anti-Catholic opinions. ...

    Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said in a statement on Tuesday, “John Edwards is a decent man who has had his campaign tarnished by two anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots.”

    Mr. Edwards’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Palmieri, said Tuesday night that the campaign was weighing the fate of the two bloggers. -- Edwards’s Bloggers Cross the Line, Critic Says - New York Times

    Spending much and getting started early

    The Washington Post reports: Starting as early as last June, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was hiring staffers and consultants in New Hampshire and Iowa and building the foundation for his 2008 presidential bid at a time when those in early battleground states typically get a breather from national politics.

    Campaign filings released last week show that he spent more than $375,000 on staffing and consulting, getting an early jump in those states. One campaign cycle earlier, a single candidate -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) -- had started hiring in-state advisers at that point, and by the end of 2002 he had spent only $4,200 paying those aides. ...

    To understand the impulses behind this fundraising race, look no further than activity in a cluster of early caucus and primary states. Democrats competing for their party's nomination will face a rapid-fire succession of contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina in January. Republicans will compete in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan. A number of states -- including behemoths such as California and Florida -- are seeking to move up their primaries to early February. ...

    To compete in those states, candidates are already confronting a daunting array of new expenses and demands that is creating a presidential sticker shock. -- In Campaign 2008, Candidates Starting Earlier, Spending More -

    January 29, 2007

    Cashing in the draft committee

    The Washington Post reports: After months of work, the momentous day for Peter Feddo and his colleagues at the "draft Hillary" movement had finally arrived: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's formation of an exploratory committee meant a presidential run was imminent.

    So what now?

    Draft committees are a peculiar political animal; they exist to start building excitement for a presidential candidate who hasn't even decided to run. They launch Web sites, collect names of potential supporters and raise money in anticipation of a presidential bid. ...

    Under federal election rules, a draft committee can spend the money on behalf of a politician, as long as it doesn't coordinate efforts with that candidate. But the committee can donate no more than the individual contribution limit of $2,300 for the primary and $2,300 for the general election, according to Michelle Ryan, an FEC spokeswoman. -- When a Draft Group's Candidate Announces, What Comes Next? -

    January 25, 2007

    Will white, male candidate X appeal to white males?

    Why are articles with titles like this, Obama's Appeal to Blacks Remains an Open Question, even considered newsworthy?

    The election turns on the votes of all the people -- or of the Supreme Court.

    January 22, 2007

    "On the Electronic Campaign Trail"

    The Washington Post reports (in print and via a video): By noon on Jan. 10, Matt Rhoades and Kevin Madden knew they had a problem.

    The two men handle communications for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's presidential exploratory committee and had been told about a video flying around the Internet that spliced clips from Romney's 1994 debate with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). In it, Romney (R), then running for the Senate in a losing campaign against Kennedy, voiced support for abortion rights and gay rights -- positions he has since renounced.

    Romney's political inner circle, alerted to the threat, decided to strike back quickly. Less than eight hours after the attack appeared, a video of Romney rebutting the charges was being sent to his supporters and to Republican blogs.

    "In a viral information age, a distortion of the record can quickly sink in as fact," Madden said. "It was very important to show that what was an anonymous attack eventually became a moment of strength for our campaign." -- On the Electronic Campaign Trail -

    January 21, 2007

    The Racing Form (pt. 4)

    With Sen. Sam Brownback's announcement, the Wall Street Journal's Circling the Oval Office has been updated.

    Update: And for Gov. Bill Richardson's exploratory committee.

    Second Update: CQ Politics has a list, the "2008 White House Derby: The Field So Far." The list was last updated on Saturday before Brownback and Richardson announcements.

    If someone knows of a frequently-updated chart on the Internet with links to these candidates' websites, please let me know. I will link to it.

    January 20, 2007

    The Racing Form (pt. 3)'s "Circling the Oval Office" has been updated with the announcement of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    January 18, 2007

    The Racing Form (pt. 2)

    Trapper John at DailyKos lists the GOP candidates for President. --
    Daily Kos: GOP Cattle Call 2008: Week of 01/15/07

    January 17, 2007

    The Racing Form

    AP has a list of declared and thinking-about-it candidates for president. -- The 2008 presidential field at-a-glance - Yahoo! News

    Update: The Wall Street Journal has a frequently-updated list of those who are running, those who are "mentioned," and those who were "mentioned" but have said they are not running, at Circling the Oval Office.

    And don't overlook DailyKos's "Dem Cattle Call 2008" which he updates every week.

    January 11, 2007

    Alabama: Jerome Gray retires from ADC

    The Birmingham News writes about my friend Jerome Gray's retirement: When they were students at Conecuh County Training School, neither Joe Reed nor Jerome Gray foresaw a future in which they would team up to break barriers to black participation in Alabama politics.

    But when they saw a chance for that future, they seized it with a vengeance. The evidence is in the numbers: Alabama has 870 black elected officials at all levels of government, more than in every state except neighboring Mississippi. The numbers of blacks in Alabama's state and local governing bodies generally mirror the percentage of blacks in the state and local populations.

    "We have achieved ... parity or equity in virtually every chamber of government," Gray said recently.

    A lot of people - lawyers and grass-roots activists among them - had a hand in achieving that result. But two of the primary players were Reed, as chairman of the black Alabama Democratic Conference, and Gray, as ADC field director. Now Gray, at 68, has decided that, after 27 years, his playing days are over. People who worked with him and against him are saying they may not see his like again. -- Voting rights powerhouse Gray lays aside `quiet work'

    January 10, 2007

    Pennsylvania: Democratic whip proposes redistricting commission and robo-call blocking

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: [Democratic whip, Sen. Michael A. O'Pake] suggested a second idea that would need a constitutional change. He wants to have the new congressional districts redrawn, after the 2010 census, by a nonpartisan group called the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, which already redraws the state House and Senate district lines.

    Currently, congressional district lines are redrawn by the majority party in the Legislature. The last time, after the 2000 census, Democrats complained that Republicans redrew the congressional lines to try to ensure re-election of GOP incumbents. The current system lets the majority party in the Legislature "redraw congressional districts with a partisan bias," Mr. O'Pake said.

    A third idea wouldn't need a constitutional change. Mr. O'Pake wants to make it easier for state residents to block "robo-calls" by politicians seeking election -- the automated phone calls by office holders or their supporters urging people to vote for them. He would let people add such calls to the state's Do Not Call list, an idea first proposed last fall by Rep. Michael McGeehan, D-Philadelphia. He also is vowing to push for it again.

    The changes to the constitution would first have to be passed in the 2007-08 session, which just started, and then again in the 2009-10 session in order to get on the November 2009 statewide ballot, at the earliest. -- Dem leader wants to reduce size of Pa. legislature

    December 26, 2006

    Candidates and the Internet

    AP reports: As candidates prepare for the 2008 presidential campaign, the Internet is the new Main Street. An estimated 70 percent of adults in the United States travel the digital highway, still a cheap and largely unregulated medium.

    Reaching those potential voters and donors has become an important part of modern politicking. Candidates aggressively compete for the talents of the most creative geeks in politics and develop new ways to exploit the Net.

    Republicans have mastered e-mail as the new form of direct-mail campaigns, raising money and pushing a GOP message. Democrats have excelled at raising cash through small-scale donations and making the Net their version of talk radio. ...

    McCain, the potential front-runner for the 2008 GOP nomination, is among the most tech-savvy could-be White House candidates today. He has retained many hands from his 2000 bid and has recruited some of the top names in online campaigning. -- Candidates turn to Web to reach voters - Yahoo! News

    December 25, 2006

    Nebraska: PSC investigating dirty-trick robo-calls

    AP reports: The Nebraska Public Service Commission is investigating allegations about automated phone calls targeting former congressional candidate Scott Kleeb during the last days of the campaign.

    The investigation ultimately could lead to allegations that federal laws were broken.

    Kleeb, a Democratic ranch hand, lost to Republican state Sen. Adrian Smith in the race for the 3rd District seat.

    Kleeb's offices were flooded in the final days of the race with complaints from people upset about receiving repeated, automated phone calls with poor-quality recordings of Kleeb's voice. -- Nebraska probes election calling

    December 20, 2006

    Web 2.0 "swarming" coming to politics

    Wired News reports: The brains behind a doomed antispam service are turning their technology into an online swarming tool for activists, hoping to subject politicians and government agencies to the kind of mass pressure Blue Frog once inflicted on spammers. ...

    Now founders Aran Reshef and Amir Hirsh are reincarnating their software to turn armies of internet users into political activists. Their new Collactive platform takes the drudgery out of grass-roots action, letting armchair activists fill out online petitions, file comments in rule-making proceedings, send letters to their representatives in Congress and seed collaborative web forums with sympathetic news items -- all with the push of a button.

    The Collactive software is offered as a generic distribution to organizations, who then configure it for a particular political issue and give it to users as a downloadable software package or Firefox plug-in.

    Once it's installed, the organizers can send alerts to users or update the software with scripts that know how to take particular actions, such as automatically filling in feedback forms on a politician's website. End users can also forward e-mail alerts to their friends, who have the option of installing the software themselves and joining the network. -- Wired News: Spammer Slammer Targets Politics

    Connecticut: no hacking of Lieberman's website

    The Stamford Advocate reports: The U.S. attorney's office and state attorney general have cleared former U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont and his supporters of any role in the crash of U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman's campaign Web site hours before last summer's Democratic primary.

    "The investigation has revealed no evidence the problems the Web site experienced were the result of criminal conduct," said Tom Carson, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor.

    State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal confirmed the joint investigation "found no evidence of tampering or sabotage warranting civil action by my office." Both men declined to provide additional information, such as what might have happened to the site. -- The Advocate - Lamont camp cleared in hacking of Lieberman Web site

    Thanks to DailyKos for the link.

    December 10, 2006

    An old chestnut busted, but something new to worry about

    The New York Times Magazine's annual "Year in Ideas" issue has a couple of articles of interest to election mavens (did I use that term correctly, Bill Safire?): In their book “The End of Southern Exceptionalism,” Richard Johnston of the University of Pennsylvania and Byron Shafer of the University of Wisconsin argue that the shift in the South from Democratic to Republican was overwhelmingly a question not of race but of economic growth. In the postwar era, they note, the South transformed itself from a backward region to an engine of the national economy, giving rise to a sizable new wealthy suburban class. This class, not surprisingly, began to vote for the party that best represented its economic interests: the G.O.P. Working-class whites, however — and here’s the surprise — even those in areas with large black populations, stayed loyal to the Democrats. (This was true until the 90s, when the nation as a whole turned rightward in Congressional voting.) -- The Myth of "the Southern Strategy" - New York Times

    After analyzing data from Arizona’s 2000 general election, the Stanford researchers found that voters were more likely to support raising the state sales tax to support education if they voted in schools. This bias remained even when results were controlled for voters’ political views and demographics. In a follow-up laboratory study, subjects were asked to vote on a number of initiatives, including California’s 2004 stem-cell-research financing proposition. Before casting a vote, each subject was primed with a picture of a school, church or generic building. Voters were less likely to support stem-cell initiatives when presented with images of a church. -- Voting-Booth Feng Shui

    Comment: About a year ago, a pol I had known for a long time called and asked me to come up with a theory to attack voting places in churches. He was convinced that the Christian Right would be turning out its people to vote in those polling places and wanted them moved. I did not come up with a theory that passed the "straight-face" test. My friend the pol lost his election. Maybe I should have use the theory of the guy in Florida. (On the other hand, the magnitude of his loss could not be blamed on just the Christian Right.)

    December 9, 2006

    I coulda been a contender

    The New York Times reports: Campaign finance reports filed this week have led to second-guessing about whether the National Republican Senatorial Committee borrowed too little for its final all-out push for its candidates.

    At least two Republican Senate candidates lost by just a few thousand votes, and reversing just one defeat would have enabled the Republicans to hold the Senate.

    As of Nov. 27, the Republican senatorial committee had raised $87 million since the election cycle began in 2005 and ended up about $1.2 million in debt.

    By comparison, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which lacked the inherent fund-raising advantage of controlling the Senate, raised $119 million in this election cycle and ended up $5.4 million in debt.

    Candidates and parties routinely borrow at the end of close races and then pay down the debt after the election. The final figures, and especially the low debts, left some Republicans grumbling privately that their Senate committee’s leader, Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, had failed to give it her all. -- G.O.P. Draws Fire on Senate Race Spending - New York Times

    November 30, 2006

    Maryland: Schumer presses Gonzales over lack of probe

    The Baltimore Sun reports: New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer is pressing U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to justify his department's decision not to investigate whether Maryland Republicans purposely misled voters on Election Day by circulating voter guides listing top state GOP candidates as part of a "Democratic Sample Ballot."

    "The right to vote is perhaps our most essential civil right, the wellspring of our democracy," Schumer said in a letter sent yesterday to Gonzales. "Unfortunately, the mid-term elections held on November 7, 2006, were tarnished by countless dirty tricks and ugly tactics. The ploy used in Maryland stands out for its sheer cynicism and brazenness."

    Campaign committees for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov Michael S. Steele, then a U.S. Senate candidate, jointly sponsored the sample ballots. African-Americans were bused in from Pennsylvania to distribute those fliers and others at polling locations in Prince George's County and Baltimore. First lady Kendel Ehrlich reportedly welcomed the volunteers to Maryland. -- Schumer presses for inquiry of GOP tactics -

    November 19, 2006

    Maryland: DOJ won't investigate Steele-Ehrlich flyers

    The Justice Department says it won't investigate misleading fliers that Republicans distributed in Maryland on Election Day.

    The fliers promoted the candidacies of Governor Robert Ehrlich and Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele.

    Acting Assistant Attorney General James Clinger says there's not enough legal basis to support such an investigation. -- Justice Department Won't Investigate Flier Distribution

    Thanks to Talking Point Memo for the link.

    Maryland: DOJ will not investigate Steele & Erlich's misleading flyers

    AP reports: The Justice Department says it won't investigate misleading fliers that Republicans distributed in Maryland on Election Day.

    The fliers promoted the candidacies of Governor Robert Ehrlich and Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele.

    Acting Assistant Attorney General James Clinger says there's not enough legal basis to support such an investigation. -- Justice Department Won't Investigate Flier Distribution

    November 16, 2006

    Cleaner campaigns a goal of Democrats

    CAPolitics reports: The Democrats who will be senators in the 110th Congress beginning in January have spent the week after Election Day choosing their leadership team and discussing agenda items for their return to the majority.

    But they also are taking a glance back at the 2006 campaign that awarded them the six-seat net gain they needed to take control — and decrying negative campaign tactics they pinned on Republican candidates. ...

    Speaking on the matter with characteristic bluntness was New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer (news, bio, voting record), who spearheaded the party’s national takeover campaign as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Schumer accused Republicans of “despicable” tactics in the 2006 election cycle, alleging that their operatives called Democrats and lied to them about the location of their polling places. ...

    Schumer said he and Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel (news, bio, voting record), who headed the party’s successful House takeover effort as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, were making a list of the “abusive practices” used by Republicans, which both Reid and Schumer contended were unique to their partisan counterparts. ...

    Schumer called for better campaign finance disclosure and said the party leadership would consider civil and criminal penalties and the possibility of creating a special division of the Justice Department to prosecute such infractions. -- Democrats Say They Will Push to Require Cleaner Campaigns - Yahoo! News

    November 14, 2006

    Are those signs down yet?

    The New York Times reports: Election Day has come and gone, and now comes the true test for candidates: how well they clean up after themselves. With a bumper crop of more than 20 million campaign signs this election season, the race has begun.

    “Only shallow candidates have lots of volunteers ready to put the signs out but not enough volunteers ready to take them down,” said Steve Grubbs, a former Iowa legislator and founder of, which sold more than five million yard and roadway signs this year, double the number from 2004. “It’s a lot of signs to deal with, but they’re slackers if they can’t get them down within a week of the election.”

    For some, that is too long to wait.

    In the last year, county and local officials in at least nine states have imposed new restrictions on where political signs can go and how long they can be left out. -- After Vote, Public Demands Change: Take Down the Signs - New York Times

    November 13, 2006

    Maryland: the story of the "Democratic Sample Ballot" recommending GOP candidates

    The Washington Post has a long article on the misleading sample ballot distributed by the Republicans on Election Day. --
    GOP Fliers Apparently Were Part Of Strategy -

    How to tell an "itch" from a "wave"

    The Washington Post reports: There is no doubt that Democrats did well on Tuesday, capturing almost 30 seats in the House, six seats in the Senate and control of both chambers. But was it the Democratic "wave" that so many had believed was about to sweep the country?

    Republican leaders said it was not. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.), who led the GOP's House campaign committee, said it was simply "a matter of history repeating itself." On the day of the elections, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman warned of a "six-year itch." ...

    But political scientists say that assessment of Tuesday's results ignores an important change in recent years. They say Republicans have re-engineered the political map, stuffing congressional districts with supporters to make the districts reliably pro-GOP. The financial and electoral advantages of incumbency, moreover, have reached new heights.

    The election results are "actually huge because of the structural advantage Republicans had going into the election. Democrats had very little low-hanging fruit," said Gary C. Jacobson, a scholar of congressional elections at the University of California at San Diego. -- How Many Wins Make Up a 'Wave'? -

    November 11, 2006

    Britain: Labour Party recruits Howard Dean to help

    The Guardian (UK) reports: Labour has enlisted one of the engineers of this week's Democratic victory in the US midterm elections in an attempt to boost its flagging fortunes before the local elections in May.

    Howard Dean, the former presidential candidate and one of the men credited with masterminding the trouncing of the Republicans, will visit the UK next month to brief party officials about his pioneering campaigning techniques.

    "The Welsh, Scottish and local elections next year are our midterms," said Hazel Blears, Labour's chair. "It has to be done differently for us to carry on being successful ... We're looking at how [the Democrats] have upped their game."

    Labour is particularly interested in the Democrats' style of targeting grassroots voters through low-key meetings in homes. "We want to look at their experience in campaigning, getting out the vote, holding house meetings where people can come together ... You don't want to transplant American politics, but there's a lot we can share," said Ms Blears.

    Many political observers will regard the drafting in of Mr Dean as bizarre, given that the Democratic victory was largely founded on voters' anger about the war in Iraq - the very subject which has alienated many Labour supporters and on which Mr Dean has been so outspoken. -- Labour drafts in US election architect for 'our midterms' | The Guardian | Guardian Unlimited

    GOP robocalls may have made the difference in dozens of districts

    Paul Kiel writes on TPM Muckraker: As we did our best to document, the National Republican Congressional Committee was responsible for repetitive, often harrassing robo calls in more than two dozen districts across the country in the runup to the election.

    In at least seven of those districts, the Democrat failed to unseat the incumbent by only a couple thousand votes. The NRCC's calls may have been the difference in those races. ...

    The NRCC's calls, you'll remember, began by saying something like "Hi, I'm calling with information about [the Democratic candidate]," then continued to give negative information about the candidate. They did not identify the true source of the calls until the very end, when they informed the listener (if he/she bothered to stay on the line until the end of the call), that the NRCC had paid for it. Voters reported being called again and again. A number of Democratic campaigns reported receiving complaints from voters who thought that the calls were coming from the Democrat, because of the calls' lead-in. We catalogued a number of the calls here.

    Democrats have asked the FEC, FCC and Justice Department to probe the calls. DCCC spokesman Bill Burton told me that the Dems are still "committed to pursuing the issue of these calls" and are "discussing the next steps.... We are absolutely not letting this drop." -- TPMmuckraker November 10, 2006 04:39 PM

    November 9, 2006

    Maryland: flyers falsely claiming black Democrats' support for GOP ticket may have violated law

    The Washington Post reports: The misleading fliers distributed on Election Day by poor, out-of-state workers suggesting that top Republican candidates had the backing of key black Democrats do not appear to be illegal but could have a lasting impact on the Republican Party's efforts to attract African American voters, political experts said yesterday.

    The fliers included a "Democratic Sample Ballot" suggesting that voters back Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Senate candidate Michael S. Steele, both Republicans. Entitled "Ehrlich-Steele Democrats," it pictured three influential Democrats -- Wayne K. Curry, Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson and Kweisi Mfume -- and said at the bottom, "These are OUR choices." Curry had endorsed Steele but not Ehrlich, and neither Johnson nor Mfume had endorsed either candidate. ...

    State law does not generally prohibit making misleading claims on campaign literature, several experts said yesterday, but election law might have been violated if the workers who distributed the fliers were hired by a political committee that is not registered to engage in campaign finance activity.

    A spokeswoman for the campaign, Shareese DeLeaver, said Tuesday that the group "Democrats for Ehrlich" had arranged for the distribution of the fliers. But according to the State Board of Elections, the only registered organization that has used a similar name is "Democrats for (Robert) Ehrlich," an Ehrlich campaign committee that was disbanded nearly four years ago. -- Misleading Fliers May Hurt GOP Among Black Voters -

    November 8, 2006

    Conyers and Dingle call for investigation of GOP's robocalls

    AP reports: Two Democratic members of Congress from Michigan are seeking an investigation into automated telephone calls to voters placed by the National Republican Congressional Committee in dozens of House races nationwide.

    In a letter sent late Monday to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Election Commission, Reps. John Conyers and John Dingell said the calls are unethical and could be illegal.

    "These misleading calls are made late in the evening, or during the night, in an effort to generate anger at the Democratic candidate, who is in no way associated with this harassment. In fact, the calls are being funded by the National Republican Campaign Committee, which has reportedly provided $600,000 to fund this deception," the letter said.

    Dingell and Conyers said the calls, some of which start by saying, "I'm calling with information about" the Democratic candidate, violate an FCC rule that says all taped calls must, "at the beginning of the message, state clearly the identity of the business, individual, or other entity that is responsible for initiating the call." -- Portsmouth Herald Local News: Dems seek inquiry of GOP taped calls

    November 7, 2006

    GOP's robocalls are infuriating Democrats

    The Washington Post reports: This year's heavy volume of automated political phone calls has infuriated countless voters and triggered sharp complaints from Democrats, who say the Republican Party has crossed the line in bombarding households with recorded attacks on candidates in tight House races nationwide. ...

    Democrats cited federal records indicating that the NRCC recently spent about $600,000 in at least 45 contested House districts for robo-calls, which are among the least expensive campaign tools. The brief calls typically begin with a speaker offering "some information" about the Democratic nominee and then immediately accusing the nominee of seeking to raise taxes, among other perceived wrongs.

    Many voters hang up as soon as a robo-call begins -- without waiting for the criticisms or the NRCC sign-off at the end -- so they think it was placed by the Democratic candidate named at the start, said Sarah Feinberg, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Our candidates are inundated with phone calls from furious Democrats and independents saying . . . 'I'm outraged and I'm not going to vote for you anymore,' " she said.

    Feinberg said some voters have received robo-calls late at night, despite federal rules barring such calls after 9 p.m. NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said his organization ends all calls by 9 nightly.

    Democrats also cited Federal Communications Commission guidelines saying the originators of automated calls must identify themselves at the beginning of each call. Republican Party lawyers, however, said the requirement does not apply to political nonprofit organizations. They rebuffed a "cease and desist" letter sent yesterday by the DCCC. -- It's a Candidate Calling. Again. -

    November 6, 2006

    New Hampshire: GOP to stop robocalls in state

    AP reports: The National Republican Congressional Committee agreed to stop placing automated telephone calls to New Hampshire residents on the federal do-not-call list, a state official said.

    The committee voluntarily agreed Sunday to stop calling homes on the registry after a citizen complained to the state attorney general's office, which then spoke with the GOP group's lawyer in Washington.

    Under state statute, political campaigns are allowed to contact people on the do-not-call list, but cannot use automated recordings.

    Deputy Attorney General Bud Fitch said households that are not on the registry may continue to receive the calls, which criticize Democratic congressional challenger Paul Hodes in the tight race with Republican Rep. Charles Bass. ...

    One of the calls features a woman who opens by saying "Hello. I'm calling with information about Paul Hodes." She goes on to criticize his position on taxes and ends by saying the call was paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to a tape recording released by the state Democratic Party.

    According to the Federal Communications Commission Web site, automated calls must state the identity of the business, individual, or other entity making the call at the beginning of the message. Burgos said the messages comply with all federal laws, but declined to comment specifically on the placement of the sponsor message.-- N.H. makes GOP stop some automated calls - Yahoo! News

    Comment: I found the following on the FCC site:

    Calls using artificial or prerecorded voice messages - including those that do not use autodialers - may not be made to residential telephone numbers except in the following cases:

    * emergency calls needed to ensure the consumer's health and safety;
    * calls for which you have given prior consent;
    * non-commercial calls;
    * calls which don't include or introduce any unsolicited advertisements or constitute telephone solicitations;
    * calls by, or on behalf of, tax-exempt non-profit organizations;or
    * calls from entities with which you have an established business relationship.

    Wouldn't a call from a political group be "non-commercial"?

    GOP using sophisticated robo-calls

    The New York Times reports: An automated voice at the other end of the telephone line asks whether you believe that judges who “push homosexual marriage and create new rights like abortion and sodomy” should be controlled. If your reply is “yes,” the voice lets you know that the Democratic candidate in the Senate race in Montana, Jon Tester, is not your man.

    In Maryland, a similar question-and-answer sequence suggests that only the Republican Senate candidate would keep the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In Tennessee, another paints the Democrat as wanting to give foreign terrorists “the same legal rights and privileges” as Americans.

    Using a telemarketing tactic that is best known for steering consumers to buy products, the organizers of the political telephone calls say they have reached hundreds of thousands of homes in five states over the last several weeks in a push to win votes for Republicans. Democrats say the calls present a distorted picture.

    The Ohio-based conservatives behind the new campaign, who include current and former Procter & Gamble managers, say the automated system can reach vast numbers of people at a fraction of the cost of traditional volunteer phone banks and is the most ambitious political use of the telemarketing technology ever undertaken. -- New Telemarketing Ploy Steers Voters on Republican Path - New York Times

    November 5, 2006 gives its members a political space

    The Los Angeles Times reports: The 10 million members of — the social networking website that's a fixture on college campuses — aren't using it just to check out potential dates or keep track of old high school buddies. They're increasingly using it, and other Internet tools, to get involved in politics.

    "He ain't Kinky, he's my governor" is a Facebook group in support of Kinky Friedman, the country singer running for governor of Texas. Polls show the independent candidate in fourth place, but that doesn't discourage the group's 20,000 members, most of whom are younger than 25. Messages on the group's blog urge: "Grab friends and family and take them to the poll!" and "Wear T-shirts!"

    Young people, many of whom have used computers since elementary school, are considered a particularly rich target for expanded online political outreach: Every day, nearly two-thirds of all 18- to 30-year-olds check their e-mail, and one-quarter use online communication tools such as Facebook or instant messaging, according to a Young Voter Strategies Battleground Poll conducted in May.

    In September, Facebook set up "Election Pulse" — a rundown of Senate, House and governors' races. "We wanted to do something to increase the political voice of the people on Facebook, a group that tends to be on the younger side of the electorate and which is often underrepresented in Washington and state capitals," said Ezra Callahan, project manager for the site's new politics initiative. -- Web could give young voters a voice - Los Angeles Times

    November 4, 2006

    Scientists show how negative ads work on the brain

    AP reports: The grainy black-and-white images appear on television, while ominous music plays in the background. It's another in a blizzard of negative political ads and before you consciously know it, the message takes hold of your brain. You may not want it to, but it works just about instantly.

    In fact, the ad's effects on the brain "are actually shocking," says UCLA psychiatry professor Dr. Marco Iacoboni.

    Iacoboni's brain imaging research from the 2004 presidential campaign revealed that viewers lost empathy for their own candidate once he was attacked.

    Scientists around the country are logging the emotional and physical effects of negative political ads. Iacoboni tracked parts of the middle brain that lit up in brain scans when people watched their favorite candidates get attacked. Other scientists hooked up wires to measure frowns and smiles before the meaning of the ads' words sunk in. Mostly, researchers found that negative ads tend to polarize and make it less likely that supporters of an attacked candidate will vote. -- Scientists track effects of negative ads - Yahoo! News

    October 30, 2006

    Alabama: gaming magnate asks Chief Justice to recuse himself because of anti-gambling ads

    AP reports (in a story about Chief Justice Nabers' recusal from an oil company case): In a related matter, attorneys for dog track operator Milton McGregor have asked [Chief Justice Drayton] Nabers to step aside from hearing an appeal involving the legality of electronic sweepstakes machines at the Birmingham dog track.

    Their request, filed Thursday, cites Nabers' campaign ads where he accuses his opponent of taking money from gambling interests and says he has "fought against the gambling bosses."

    A Jefferson County judge ruled that the sweepstakes games were legal, but Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which has not yet ruled. --

    Note: The Alablawg discusses the same article and makes some good points.

    "Election Night Cheat Sheet"

    Contrapositive has posted the Election Night Cheat Sheet -- an hour-by-hour guide to election night 2006.

    527s spending $300 million on campaigns

    The Los Angeles Times reports: Unions, corporations and wealthy individuals have pumped nearly $300 million this year into unregulated political groups, funding dozens of aggressive and sometimes shadowy campaigns independent of party machines.

    The groups, both liberal and conservative, air TV and radio spots, conduct polls, run phone banks, canvass door-to-door and stage get-out-the-vote rallies, with no oversight by the Federal Election Commission. Set up as tax-exempt "issue advocacy" committees, they cannot explicitly endorse candidates. But they can do everything short of telling voters how to mark their ballots.

    Because they can accept unlimited donations from any source, the committees — known as 527s — have emerged as the favored vehicle for millionaires and interest groups seeking to set the political agenda. ...

    Named for a section of the IRS code, 527s have been around for years but became a political force in 2004 after the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — also known as the McCain--Feingold Bill — limited donations to political parties. Groups such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth on the right and America Coming Together on the left contributed $600 million that year, with a heavy focus on the presidential race. -- UNREGULATED GROUPS WIELD MILLIONS TO SWAY VOTERS - Los Angeles Times

    Texas: twists and turns in the race for Tom DeLay's seat

    The New York Times reports: Hoping against the odds to keep a prize Republican Congressional seat from falling to the Democrats next week, President Bush travels to his home state on Monday for a rally in the district long led by his Texas ally Tom DeLay. ...

    But discord broke out Friday after Ms. Sekula-Gibbs showed up inside a Sugar Land polling place where voters were casting early ballots, setting off charges by Texas Democrats and the Lampson camp that she had willfully broken the law by campaigning inside a polling place. Ms. Sekula-Gibbs said she had been campaigning outside and briefly went in to use the restroom and inquire about voter turnout.

    In one of the many oddities of the race, Ms. Sekula-Gibbs, 53, is running twice, as her campaign jingle, “Vote Twice for Shelley,” to the tune of “Roll Out the Barrel,” reminds voters. She is on the ballot with three other Republicans and a Libertarian in the special election that Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, waited until the last minute to call to fill Mr. DeLay’s unexpired term until January. And she is a write-in candidate against Mr. Lampson as well as a Libertarian and two other write-ins in the general election to the 2007-8 Congress.

    Only the Libertarian candidate, Bob Smither, 62, an engineer, appears on the ballot in both elections. -- A Tangle of a Race to Fill DeLay's Old Seat - New York Times

    October 29, 2006

    Tennessee: Dems working on presidential-level turnouts

    The Washington Post reports: While Republican Bob Corker and Democratic Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. slug it out in the Tennessee Senate race, voters there are already going to the polls in record numbers. Early voting began in the state Oct. 18, and turnout is reported to be especially high in Ford's home town of Memphis. ...

    Second, to counter the Republicans' potent turnout operation, Democrats have zeroed in on 200,000 voters who party officials believe could push Ford over the top. These "drop-off" voters show up during general-election years but tend to skip nonpresidential contests.

    About three-quarters of the Democratic drop-off voters are African Americans, and many live in Shelby County, where Memphis is located and where Ford and his relatives have a history of running well. Corker, in fact, has criticized the Ford family "machine" and its long hold over Memphis politics. -- Tennessee Democrats Seek to Mobilize 'Drop-Off' Voters -

    October 27, 2006

    Maryland: Erlich's dollar-bill letter is "no criminal violation," state prosecutor decides

    The Washington Post reports: A state prosecutor has found no criminal violations stemming from a recent fundraising solicitation from Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that included real dollar bills.

    Last month's mailer was referred to the Office of the State Prosecutor by a state election official who determined that there was "probable cause" that Ehrlich's campaign had run afoul of the law.

    But a letter received yesterday by the Ehrlich campaign stated that the prosecutor's office had "found no criminal violation of the election laws in connection with this fundraising solicitation" and that it was closing its file on the matter.

    In the mailing, Ehrlich (R) wrote that he had "taken the extraordinary step of sending . . . a real dollar bill" and asked potential donors to return it along with a contribution of $25 or more for his reelection campaign. -- Ehrlich's Dollar-Bill Mailer Not Illegal, Official Says -

    October 26, 2006

    "Google bombing" the campaign

    The New York Times reports: If things go as planned for liberal bloggers in the next few weeks, searching Google for “Jon Kyl,” the Republican senator from Arizona now running for re-election, will produce high among the returns a link to an April 13 article from The Phoenix New Times, an alternative weekly.

    Mr. Kyl “has spent his time in Washington kowtowing to the Bush administration and the radical right,” the article suggests, “very often to the detriment of Arizonans.” ...

    Fifty or so other Republican candidates have also been made targets in a sophisticated “Google bombing” campaign intended to game the search engine’s ranking algorithms. By flooding the Web with references to the candidates and repeatedly cross-linking to specific articles and sites on the Web, it is possible to take advantage of Google’s formula and force those articles to the top of the list of search results. ...

    Each name is associated with one article. Those articles are embedded in hyperlinks that are now being distributed widely among the left-leaning blogosphere. In an entry at this week, Mr. Bowers said: “When you discuss any of these races in the future, please, use the same embedded hyperlink when reprinting the Republican’s name. Then, I suppose, we will see what happens.” -- A New Campaign Tactic: Manipulating Google Data - New York Times

    October 24, 2006

    California: Nguyen bought the mailing list for the "immigrant" letter

    The Los Angeles Times reports: Congressional candidate Tan Nguyen personally bought the list of voters to whom a racially charged letter was mailed, warning that immigrants could be jailed or deported for voting, according to the president of the company that sold the list and sources familiar with the still-unfolding investigation.

    Nguyen requested information on registered Democrats in the central Orange County Congressional district with Spanish surnames who were born outside the United States, according to people familiar with a state investigation into the letter. Nguyen, a Republican, is running an underdog campaign against Democratic incumbent Loretta Sanchez. ...

    Nguyen, who has drawn national scorn for his campaign's role in the mailing, maintains that he had nothing to do with the letter's production or distribution, saying a campaign office manager misappropriated the list. Nguyen fired the worker last week but said Sunday that he had offered to rehire her because he came to believe that the letter was accurate and did not violate the law.

    Separately, sources have told The Times that a Los Angeles Police Department officer who is close to Nguyen used an alias to order the letter produced and then paid $4,000 for it on his credit card. -- Candidate reportedly bought voter list for controversial letter - Los Angeles Times

    October 23, 2006

    Connecticut: $387,000 in "petty cash"

    AP reports: Ned Lamont's campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Monday, accusing Sen. Joe Lieberman of failing to account for $387,000 in petty cash his campaign spent days before the Democratic primary. The Lieberman campaign has denied any wrongdoing.

    "The public has a right to know how nearly $400,000 in cash was spread around the streets of Connecticut," said Lamont campaign co-chairman George Jepsen at a news conference.

    Records must be kept of petty cash expenditures, Jepsen said.

    Lieberman spokeswoman Tammy Sun said Sunday, when the allegations first surfaced, that the cash was paid to field coordinators who then distributed money to workers who were canvassing. The payments to workers, many of them students, ranged from $50 to $100 per day, Sun added. -- Lieberman challenger complains to FEC - Yahoo! News

    A Pentecostal preacher, two Catholics, a Methodist Sunday school teacher, an Episcopalian, a progressive evangelical, several Baptists, and a rabbi walk into a political party ...

    The Religion News Service reports: At a meeting of the House Democrats' Faith Working Group, a perplexed congressman turned to his colleagues for pastoral guidance. How could he counter a local preacher who argued that all of Jesus's moral teachings were about the world to come, not the here and now?

    Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.) stood amid the sympathetic sighs and "you can't convert everyone" comments to offer a new spin on an old parable.

    The Good Samaritan is walking down the road and cares for a stranger who has been beaten and robbed, Price said. The next day, on the same road, another person has been beaten and robbed. So it goes for another week -- more robberies, more victims.

    "How long is it going to take before the Samaritan says, 'Hey, maybe we ought to patrol this road,' " Price said. In other words, the lawmaker argued, there are some problems that individuals can't solve on their own. They require the resources of a morally responsible government.

    As Democrats seek to reframe America's debate over moral values and close their "God gap" with religious communities, conversations such as these are blowing like a mighty wind through party circles. -- Helping Democrats Bridge the 'God Gap' -

    October 21, 2006

    California: police raid Nguyen's home and office over "immigrant" letter

    The Los Angeles Times reports: Even as he prepared to step before the cameras Friday in an effort to mend his tattered candidacy for Congress, the worst week of Tan Nguyen's political life got bleaker still, as state agents raided his Garden Grove campaign headquarters and Santa Ana home, hauling off computers and bags of evidence.

    The investigation by California Department of Justice agents stems from a racially charged letter that Nguyen admits his office sent to about 14,000 registered voters in central Orange County. The letter, which warned "immigrants" they could be jailed or deported if they tried to vote, has spurred condemnation across the political spectrum and an investigation into possible voting rights violations.

    Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant who is running to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, maintains that he neither wrote nor authorized the instantly infamous letter, claiming it was the work of a campaign manager he refused to name. According to the head of the Orange County Republican Party, however, the mailing house that sent the letter said Nguyen had a direct hand in it.

    State agents arrived both at Nguyen's campaign office and his home about 1 p.m. Friday with search warrants, scouring files, plumbing cabinets and bagging evidence. -- Raids Widen 'Immigrant' Letter Probe - Los Angeles Times

    October 20, 2006

    Colorado: Beauprez's source revealed

    AP reports: Confidential law enforcement information that Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez (news, bio, voting record) used in an attack ad against his opponent for governor came from a federal immigration agent, a person in government who was briefed on the matter said Friday.

    Cory Voorhis, a registered Republican who lives in Colorado, provided the information, said the person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the case is the subject of an
    FBI investigation. ...

    At issue is an ad criticizing Beauprez's Democratic opponent, former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter, for giving a plea bargain to an illegal immigrant suspected of heroin trafficking. The man was later arrested in California on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor.

    The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has said the information came from the National Crime Information Center, a federal database available only to law enforcement officials. Its use for any purpose other than law enforcement is a crime punishable by up to a year in prison. -- Agent identified as Beauprez ad leaker - Yahoo! News

    October 18, 2006

    Colorado: Beauprez's attack ad gets him in hot water

    AP reports: Information in an attack ad run by Rep. Bob Beauprez (news, bio, voting record) against his Democratic opponent for governor used illegal confidential information from a federal law enforcement database, Colorado authorities said Wednesday.

    The Colorado Bureau of Investigation launched a criminal investigation into the ad after gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter's campaign raised the possibility that the databases were illegally accessed because the information could not be verified through public records.

    Director Robert Cantwell said the information came from the National Crime Information Center, a federal database available only to law-enforcement officials. ...

    The TV ad refers to a suspected illegal immigrant who was arrested in Denver in 2001 on suspicion of heroin trafficking. The ad says that when Ritter was the district attorney for Denver, he chose to seek a plea bargain in the case, the man avoided deportation, and he was later arrested in California on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor.

    The Beauprez campaign has said the information came from an informant and has refused to identify the source. -- Beauprez ad has illegal classified info - Yahoo! News

    October 14, 2006

    Voters' guides, lots of voters' guides

    The New York Times reports: Voters’ guides have gone theological. “Voting God’s Politics.” “Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics.” “Voting for the Common Good: A Practical Guide for Conscientious Catholics.” “Voting With a Clear Conscience.” And more.

    These are not the familiar guides that line up candidates by their views or votes on a list of selected issues and that, in some cases, give them ratings, a practice that has migrated from lobbies like those on gun control, tax cuts and environmental regulation to religious groups like the Christian Coalition.

    No, the new voters’ guides try to be mini-manuals of moral theology and church-state relations, offering voters a religious framework for making their choices, not endorsements of candidates or parties.

    Of course, it isn’t that simple. The complex entanglement of theology and politics is made clear in the case of competing Roman Catholic guides, a matter of political import in view of the belief that Catholics constitute a swing vote, especially in what are considered swing states. -- Voters' Guides Define Moral Compromises to Take to Polls - New York Times

    October 12, 2006

    Mark Warner decides *not* to run for president

    I just received an email from Mark Warner that he will not run for President. Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post has the skinny on Warner's Out: Winners and a Loser - The Fix

    I am sorry to see Gov. Warner leave the race. Since 2001 when I was part of his GOTV campaign legal team, I have admired his ability to work with Republicans and inspire Democrats.

    Gov. Warner's letter says in part,

    My decision does not in any way diminish my desire to be active in getting our country fixed. It doesn't mean that I won't run for public office again.

    I want to serve, whether in elective office or in some other way. I'm still excited about the possibilities for the future.

    In the short-term, I am going to do everything I can do make sure Democrats win in 2006. It's an exciting year to be a Democrat. I leave shortly to go to Iowa to support folks running for state and congressional office. Hope they are still excited to see me.

    Well, that was the good news part of the message.

    October 4, 2006

    Ohio, 2004, replayed -- Democrats still lose

    The New York Times reviews a film: A ‘what went wrong?’ documentary bristling with answers, “...So Goes the Nation” is a clear-eyed and utterly ruthless dissection of the battle for Ohio in the months leading up to the 2004 presidential election. Zeroing in on the strategic decisions of both major parties, the directors, James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, illuminate not only the putative blunders of the Kerry-Edwards campaign but also the larger difficulties of the Democratic Party itself. It’s not pretty, but it is instructive.

    Facing in President Bush an incumbent burdened by a 48 percent approval rating and an unpopular war in Iraq, Senator John Kerry had “probably 20 different ways he could have won,” says the former Clinton adviser Paul Begala. “And he refused to execute on any of them.” -- ...So Goes the Nation - Review - Movies - New York Times

    October 2, 2006

    Alabama: blacks will not split from Democratic Party, Reed says

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: It's only "Republican wishful thinking" that a meeting by the Alabama Democratic Conference on Saturday is a sign the group will split from the state Democratic Party, the chairman of the black caucus said.

    Although the meeting Saturday was an opportunity for members of the black caucus to discuss concerns, chairman Joe Reed said the event was about party building and generating support for Democratic candidates, not leaving the party.

    "I call it Republican wishful thinking," Reed said.

    Members who attended the closed meeting, which was moved from Prattville to Millbrook following media reports, said they discussed ensuring black votes generated by the caucus are complimented by efforts of white Democrats in their community. Some members said they don't want black voters, a loyal voting bloc for the party, to be taken for granted.

    "The thrust of it is get involved," Reed said.

    Reed and other members said it was also about the need for the state party to consistently apply its rules. For some members, that issue was highlighted in August when the nominee for a Jefferson County legislative seat was contested over a party bylaw. -- :: Black caucus leader denies party rift

    Disclosure: I represented Patricia Todd who was the nominee Reed accuses of breaking the party rule.

    October 1, 2006

    Maryland: Ehrlich mailing dollar bills to voters

    AP reports: Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is mailing some Maryland voters a dollar in a fund-raising technique that is being reviewed by the State Board of Elections.

    Jared DeMarinis, director of the board’s candidacy and campaign finance division, told The Washington Post that the case could be sent to the state prosecutor’s office, depending on what officials conclude. ...

    It is clearly illegal under Maryland law for candidates to give people money to garner their vote. The propriety of what Mr. Ehrlich did is less clear, he said.

    The law also requires campaign expenditures to be made by check, and this involves cash, Mr. DeMarinis said. --, Government - Ehrlich's fund-raising technique scrutinized

    Alabama: yet another voter guide

    AP reports: The voter guide from the former Christian Coalition of Alabama won't be the only one distributed in churches before the election Nov. 7. There will be a new one that is already causing a split along party lines.

    Redeem the Vote, a Montgomery-based group that registered thousands of religious voters in 2004, plans to distribute what it calls an "alternative voter guide" on races for statewide offices and the Legislature.

    It will list candidates' responses to a questionnaire about issues of faith, rather than highlighting their responses to hot button issues like taxes.

    "Voters of faith are tired of shrill partisanship and are weary of wedge issues. However, a voter guide that gives a real glimpse into the heart and decision-making process of a candidate is a truer and fairer measurement of a candidate's moral position," the founder, Dr. Randy Brinson, said. -- Faith-based group plans alternative voter guide - Tuscaloosa

    Alabama: black Democrats considering "present relationship" with Democratic Party

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Black Democrats will meet today to discuss their future with the state party and if they should support candidates with an "unacceptable agenda," a move one political analyst said could hurt the party in the Nov. 7 general election.

    The meeting is detailed in a letter by Alabama Democratic Conference Chairman Joe Reed to the leadership of the Alabama Democratic Conference and other party officials.

    A copy of the Sept. 12 letter obtained by the Montgomery Advertiser states the meeting in Prattville is dedicated to determining the "quality and status" of the group's relationship to the party and "whether it is in our best interest to continue to maintain our present relationship, given the current political climate."

    It also states the group will decide what position to take regarding "Democratic candidates who, in our opinion, are not electable, or whose agenda is unacceptable or not compatible with our black agenda." -- :: Black Democrats may split from party

    September 29, 2006

    ... and now, the Muslim voter's guide

    The Washington Post reports:
    National Muslim civic leaders announced a new push yesterday to get the country's estimated 2.2 million registered Muslim voters to the polls, unveiling a Web site that spells out key races of "Muslim interest" and ATM-like voter registration machines that will be put in mosques and Islamic student centers.

    The campaign by the Washington-based Muslim American Society is a continuation of an effort that has been underway since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to increase American Muslims' involvement in the political process. A 2005 survey by the Muslim American Political Action Committee said 84 percent of registered Muslims voted in the November 2004 election, compared with 41 percent in 2000.

    The efforts are getting more tailored, Muslim leaders said in announcing the creation of the society's Center for Electoral Empowerment. The center's main feature is a Web site that offers details on issues that the political action committee says are the most important to Muslim voters: concerns about "the erosion of civil liberties," "fair" immigration reform and foreign policy, said Mukit Hossain, president of MAPAC. ...

    The focus on Muslim voting -- both by Muslim American leaders and political candidates -- rose again after the 2004 election, when the Muslim vote moved significantly away from the Republican Party. -- Effort Aims To Push Muslims To the Polls -

    "Religious-Right Voter Guides Facing Challenge From Left"

    The Washington Post reports: A new group called Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good said yesterday that it will distribute at least 1 million voter guides before the Nov. 7 elections, emphasizing church teachings on war, poverty and social justice as well as on abortion, contraception and homosexuality.

    The 12-page booklet, called "Voting for the Common Good: A Practical Guide for Conscientious Catholics," is part of a broader effort by liberal and moderate religious groups to challenge the Christian right on moral values, said Alexia Kelley, the group's executive director and a former employee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. ...

    In Protestant churches, the Christian Coalition's guides will face competition this year from "Voting God's Politics," a brochure produced by the liberal evangelical magazine Sojourners and the anti-poverty group Call to Renewal. Like the Common Good guide, it discusses issues, not individual candidates.

    "Even the term 'voter guide' has been so tainted by the religious right that people are afraid that ours is going to be just a left-wing version of theirs, a thinly camouflaged signal to vote for particular candidates," said Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners. "Our guide levels the playing field; it makes clear that God is not a Republican or a Democrat." -- Religious-Right Voter Guides Facing Challenge From Left -

    September 26, 2006

    Ohio: microtargeting takes macro work

    The Washington Post reports: There is no sexier topic in politics these days than "microtargeting." That's the new science (some say dark art) by which candidates use the latest data-mining technology to vacuum every last scrap of information about voters, then churn out custom-tailored messages designed to herd their supporters to the polls.

    Here in Rep. Steve Chabot's campaign headquarters, microtargeting does not seem quite as glamorous as advertised. There are 10 phones arranged neatly on a long wooden table. Nearby sit two stacks of paper, each filled with names, each name assigned a bar code.

    Every evening, volunteers file into this room to place waves of phone calls aimed at identifying the people who are most likely to reward this six-term Republican with a seventh. At the end of the evening, the results -- a trove of the likes and dislikes of 1st District voters -- are scanned into a database. It is painstaking work.

    But Chabot and his Democratic challenger, Cincinnati City Council member John Cranley, have placed large bets that it will prove effective. Both candidates have spent months combing through voter lists to find "drop-off" voters -- those who turn out in presidential election years but rarely in midterm contests. In a district as evenly divided as this one -- President Bush won it by just 3,000 votes in 2004 -- the party best equipped to find and persuade these individuals to turn out on Nov. 7 will probably end up on top. -- In Ohio, a Battle of Databases -

    September 23, 2006

    Washington Post has political ads database

    If you just can't get enough of political advertising, go to the Washington Post "Mixed Messages": The database includes political advertisements funded by campaigns, parties, committees, and independent advocacy groups. Most of the ads are tied to specific U.S. House, U.S. Senate, or gubernatorial races throughout the country. Some of the ads are more general "issue" or advocacy ads not tied to a particular race or candidate. You can search for ads based on the criteria listed below.
    101 Ads Catalogued

    » By Candidate/Organization
    » By State
    » By Party
    » By Type of Race
    » By Issue
    » By Character
    » By Cue
    » By Dissemination
    » By Music
    » By Narrator Gender
    » By Type
    -- Mixed Messages: Tracking Political Advertising |'s Political Ads Database

    Alabama: Chapman asks for quick ethics ruling on Worley's "campaigning"

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: State Auditor Beth Chapman called on the Alabama Ethics Commission to quickly issue a ruling on voter education commercials featuring Secretary of State Nancy Worley that she said are essentially campaign ads.

    Worley dismissed the allegations as an election-year stunt.

    Chapman, who faces Worley in the Nov. 7 election for secretary of state, also asked that Worley stop hand-delivering checks reimbursing county government for expenses to comply with federal election law. She said the practice is a campaign photo opportunity delaying much-needed money to counties.

    The trips are also an unnecessary expense, potentially costing taxpayers $3,350 compared with the $26.13 it would cost to mail the checks, Chapman said. -- :: Worley's actions draw criticism

    Evangelical leaders campaigning for GOP

    The Los Angeles Times reports: Worried that discontent among conservatives and the lack of a clear standard-bearer to follow President Bush might cost Republicans in November, top evangelical leaders pleaded with their followers Friday to put aside frustrations and turn out for GOP candidates.

    The appeals, coming on the opening day of a weekend-long rally and strategy conference, included entreaties to pastors to use their pulpits on behalf of the social conservative agenda. ...

    The Values Voter Summit — which will include appearances by several potential GOP presidential hopefuls — underscores evangelicals' growing power in national politics. The agenda serves as a road map of their tactics for energizing voters, including sessions on fighting gay marriage, attacking Hollywood liberalism and denouncing embryonic stem-cell research.

    Kicking off the conference Friday, Dobson joined other evangelical chieftains in lobbying pastors to feel more free to advocate for conservative causes from the pulpit despite recent investigations by the Internal Revenue Service into alleged partisan activities by churches. One such investigation has ensnared the liberal All Saints Church in Pasadena, over a sermon denouncing the Iraq war shortly before the 2004 election. -- Tactic Uses Pulpits to Power the GOP - Los Angeles Times

    September 14, 2006

    Dems form "September Group" as 527

    The New York Times reports: Sensing both political danger and opportunity, a top Democratic operative and a group of major party donors have banded together to deliver a barrage of late advertising and on-the-ground action to secure Democratic victories in November.

    The operative, Harold M. Ickes, a top aide to former President Bill Clinton and informal adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and a group of allies are soliciting money for a new organization called the September Fund.

    They hope to raise and spend as much as $25 million to influence not only crucial Congressional races but also other campaigns and ballot initiatives at the federal and state level. ...

    The September Fund, like the groups Mr. Ickes helped organize in 2004, is set up under a loophole in campaign finance law that allows political groups to escape federal donation limits that apply to party committees and candidates. Such groups, called 527 groups for the relevant section of the Internal Revenue Code, cannot advocate the election or defeat of any candidate but can engage in issue advertising that draws distinctions between the two parties. -- Democrats Form New Group for Fund-Raising and Ads - New York Times

    Rhode Island: GOP GOTV A-OK

    The Washington Post reports: The turnout campaign that Republican operatives used to help pull Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee to victory in the Rhode Island primary was a potent demonstration of how money and manpower can transform a race even in an unfavorable political environment -- and a preview of the strategy that national party officials say they plan to replicate in the most competitive House and Senate races over the next 55 days.

    In the past two national elections, in 2002 and 2004, Republicans outperformed Democrats in bringing their backers to the polls, but many Democrats and independent analysts have suggested that the competition may be different this year, in part because of slumping morale among GOP activists. But Chafee's performance -- combined with reports of late-starting organization and internal bickering on the Democratic side -- suggest that the Republican advantage on turnout may remain intact even as many other trends are favoring the opposition.

    The Republican National Committee, convinced that Chafee is the party's only chance of keeping a seat in a Democratic-leaning state, spent $400,000 to ship 86 out-of-state volunteers and several paid staff members to Rhode Island. They targeted not just Republicans but also independent voters during the final days of the campaign, following a blueprint developed months ago by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Chafee campaign. ...

    As the campaign wore on, Republicans began another slew of phone calls to unaffiliated voters to tell them that they could vote for Chafee and then immediately change their registration back to unaffiliated or Democrat. The RNC road-tested a new technology in the race that officials said is making their targeting program faster and more precise. It is based on a program that allows volunteers to call potential voters, note their political views and preferences on sheet of paper and immediately scan the results into a huge database known as the Voter Vault. Experts in the political practice known as microtargeting can then instantly analyze the results to determine which issues are moving voters and adjust their pitch. -- In R.I., a Model for Voter Turnout -

    August 30, 2006

    Labor plans on $40 million GOTV effort

    AP reports: The AFL-CIO launched a $40 million voter drive on Wednesday, targeting 21 states and hoping increased turnout among union members swings competitive races in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

    The financial commitment amounted to the most expensive by the union for the midterm elections. The focus is 21 governors races, 15 Senate races and at least 50 House races.

    The AFL-CIO said its effort could reach 12.4 million new voters — union members, their households and families — in those top-tier states. The vast majority of the candidates who would benefit are Democrats in union-heavy states, especially the Midwest.

    By its estimates, the AFL-CIO is counting on a 5 percent increase in turnout. If successful, the union said, it would add 310,000 union votes to Democrat Ted Strickland's race for Ohio governor. Pennsylvania union voters could boost Democrat Bob Casey's bid to unseat Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record) by 155,000 votes. -- AFL-CIO launches $40 million campaign - Yahoo! News

    August 24, 2006

    Alabama: Alabama Christian Coalition splits from national group

    The Birmingham News reports: Alabama's chapter of the Christian Coalition of America dropped out of the national organization Wednesday, declaring it has drifted from its founding conservative principles.

    It was the third state affiliate to leave the national group. ...

    National Chairman and President Roberta Combs said the Alabama group recently sent out its 2006 candidate survey without getting it cleared by the Washington office, which is required under a recent legal settlement with the IRS. A January letter from the national organization's attorney warned state chapters that their affiliation could be revoked if the policy was not followed, Combs said. ...

    Giles said the Christian Coalition of America's arrangement with the IRS was not relevant to the state chapter, but any disagreement over the candidate survey was not related to the decision to break away. -- Christian Coalition splinters off

    August 22, 2006

    Texas: is District 22 ready for the big spelling test?

    The reports: After Tom DeLay dropped out last week, the Texas GOP was forced to try a Hail Mary, throwing their support behind a write-in candidate. But the candidate's name -- Shelley Sekula-Gibbs -- may be a problem.

    In short, the Republican strategy is now this: tens of thousands of GOP voters will go to the polls on November 7, ignore the names printed on the ballot, and write in a hyphenated name of 20 characters (counting spaces). A long shot, for sure -- as the AP noted, only four candidates in U.S. electoral history have ever succeeded with a write-in campaign.

    But it gets trickier. Voters in Texas' 22nd District will use the eSlate electronic voting machine. I decided to take it for a test drive and experience the thrill of democracy myself -- which you can do on Hart Intercivic's website. -- TPMmuckraker August 22, 2006 04:52 PM

    Comment: I had been wondering about how much trouble the voters might have spelling the name of Dr. Sekula-Gibbs and how the actual "writing in" would be done. Thanks to TPM for telling us.

    August 20, 2006

    "The YouTube Election"

    Ryan Lizza writes in the New York Times: But YouTube may be changing the political process in more profound ways, for good and perhaps not for the better, according to strategists in both parties. If campaigns resemble reality television, where any moment of a candidate’s life can be captured on film and posted on the Web, will the last shreds of authenticity be stripped from our public officials? Will candidates be pushed further into a scripted bubble? In short, will YouTube democratize politics, or destroy it?

    YouTube didn’t even exist until 2005, but it now attracts some 20 million different visitors a month. In statements to the press, the company has been quick to take credit for radically altering the political ecosystem by opening up elections, allowing lesser known candidates to have a platform.

    Some political analysts say that YouTube could force candidates to stop being so artificial, since they know their true personalities will come out anyway. “It will favor a kind of authenticity and directness and honesty that is frankly going to be good,” said Carter Eskew, a media consultant who worked for Senator Lieberman’s primary campaign. “People will say what they really think rather than what they think people want to hear.”

    But others see a future where politicians are more vapid and risk averse than ever. Matthew Dowd, a longtime strategist for President Bush who is now a partner in a social networking Internet venture, Hot Soup, looks at the YouTube-ization of politics, and sees the death of spontaneity. -- The YouTube Election

    Democrats adopt penalties for campaigning in states that jump the queue

    The New York Times reports: The Democratic National Committee voted Saturday to penalize 2008 presidential candidates who defied a new nominating calendar devised to lessen the longtime influence of New Hampshire and Iowa, the two states that have traditionally kicked off the nominating process.

    The sanctions will be directed at candidates who campaign in any state that refuses to follow a 2008 calendar of primaries and caucuses that was also approved Saturday. Any candidate who campaigns in a state that does not abide by the new calendar will be stripped at the party convention of delegates won in that state.

    The party adopted a broad definition of campaigning, barring candidates from giving speeches, attending party events, mailing literature or running television advertisements. ...

    The calendar and penalties were adopted by what appeared to be an overwhelming margin in a voice vote. The decision, which embraces the recommendations of the party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, is the biggest shift in the way Democrats have nominated their presidential candidates in 30 years. -- Democrats Set Primary Calendar and Penalties - New York Times

    August 19, 2006

    APSA paper: "Inverse Tactical Voting and Senate Elections"

    Doyle, Jeffrey. "Inverse Tactical Voting and Senate Elections"

    Abstract: The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of senatorial seniority on aggregate third party vote totals. The main focus of this paper is to illustrate that voters will vote for a third party candidate as a senator gains seniority by winning reelections due to the theory called Inverse Tactical Voting or ITV. ITV occurs when a voter perceives that their first voting choice, often
    one of the two major political parties in the United States, is nonviable due to the opposition party holding the senate seat. To explore this theory, a game theoretic model is constructed that considers the game that voters play when entering the voting booth. This game theoretic model is tested using voting statistics from the Office of the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. The results of this test are promising because the basic statistical testing, correlations and scatterplots demonstrate that the model is correct in that third party voting increases as senators are reelected. -- Download file

    August 16, 2006

    Focus on the Family will focus on GOTV

    The Washington Post reports: Conservative Christian radio host James C. Dobson's national organization, Focus on the Family, said yesterday that it will work with affiliated groups in eight battleground states to mobilize evangelical voters in the November elections.

    In targeting individual churches the way political organizers traditionally pinpointed certain wards, Focus on the Family is filling a void left by the near-collapse of the Christian Coalition and stepping into an area where recent Republican Party efforts have created resentment among evangelicals.

    As a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, Focus on the Family is barred from endorsing candidates. Tom Minnery, vice president of the Colorado-based group, said its efforts would be nonpartisan. ...

    In an e-mail message to supporters last week, Focus on the Family said it would partner with its state-level "family policy councils" to "combat voter apathy and encourage Christians to go to the polls" in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, Minnesota, Montana and Tennessee. Minnery, in a telephone interview, said those states were chosen for their "live, hotly contested races." -- Group to Rally Evangelical Voters

    August 10, 2006

    Georgia: McKinney says GOP voters lead to her defeat

    The New York Times reports: Her cheering supporters were clearly surprised by Representative Cynthia McKinney's defeat in Tuesday's Democratic primary runoff, but those who follow this city's changing demographics were not.

    Over the past few years, increasing numbers of affluent blacks have moved into southern DeKalb County, the base of Ms. McKinney’s district, and many were not impressed by her confrontational and occasionally erratic style. ...

    But Ms. McKinney and her supporters contend that Republicans mounted a campaign to vote her out of office, as they did four years ago when crossover voting helped elect her Democratic challenger, Denise Majette.

    “We aren’t going to tolerate any more stolen elections,” Ms. McKinney said in her concession speech, though crossover voting is legal in Georgia. -- Democrat Says G.O.P. Voters Led to Her Loss - New York Times

    August 9, 2006

    Connecticut: Explanations for the difficulties at differ

    Justin Rood writes at I've spoken at length with the two men closest to Sen. Joe Lieberman's ((D/I?)-CT) re-election Web site,, to understand at length what happened to the site yesterday morning. Their versions appear to differ, although it's not immediately clear why. Sam Hubbell, proprietor of, which hosted the site, is more involved in the health of the server than Dan Geary, who designed the site and interfaces with the campaign.

    Geary runs a small web consulting shop -- not much bigger than himself -- in Nevada, and sometimes uses Hubbell for design work, he told me when we spoke yesterday evening. For his part, Hubbell -- whom I spoke with this afternoon -- told me that consists of himself, a co-owner, and fewer than 10 servers located at a facility in Texas. Support, he said, is mostly handled by the Texas facility, Server Matrix.

    So, guys, what happened? -- TPMmuckraker August 9, 2006 06:12 PM

    Texas: David Wallace announces write-in campaign

    AP reports: The mayor of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay's Texas hometown said Wednesday he will run as a write-in candidate for DeLay's congressional seat.

    DeLay announced Tuesday he was withdrawing from the race after the Supreme Court rejected attempts by the Texas Republican party to replace him on the November ballot.

    David Wallace, mayor of Sugar Land, Texas, was one of the candidates under consideration by the party to replace DeLay. ...

    A write-in must declare candidacy and pay a fee or submit required signatures by Aug. 29. -- Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas/Southwest

    Connecticut: conspiracy theories surround the Lieberman website crash

    It's been quite a day for conspiracy theories. First, Lieberman's website crashed or was blocked (see below), and the Lieberman campaign blamed "our political opponents." Then, I was watching the SciFi channel's Eureka and heard a simple explanation of Occam's Razor (see further below). This morning, NPR's Morning Edition carried a story on conspiracy theories.

    When Senator Joseph I. Lieberman's campaign Web site crashed in the hours leading up to yesterday's Democratic primary election, it was hard not to read some deeper meaning into the problem.

    Was it a sign that Senator Lieberman was clumsy when it came to marshaling the technology that his opponents had used so well against him? Or had some shadowy, sinister bloggertypes who were championing his challenger, Ned Lamont, hacked into the site and shut it down, as the Lieberman campaign charged?

    The Lieberman campaign said that “we believe that this is the result of a coordinated attack by our political opponents.’’ The Lamont campaign responded that “if Senator Lieberman’s Web site was indeed hacked, we had absolutely no part in it, denounce the action, and urge whoever is responsible cease and desist immediately.’’ -- Charges of Dirty Tricks on Web Feed Speculation in the Blogosphere - New York Times

    Well, of course, the liberal bloggers who had been beating the drum most loudly against Lieberman immediately jumped on the story and figured out every technical aspect of the story. Start with DailyKos. Connect the dots with Firedoglake.

    Finally, Occam's Razor. You can read a long explanation of the idea on Wikipedia, or you can listen to Henry on Eureka (my recollection): "If a big tree falls over during a windstorm, which of these is more logical and likely: the wind blew the tree over; or the wind caused an alien space ship to crash into the tree?

    August 7, 2006

    Georgia: McKinney counting on film to help her win runoff

    The New York Times reports: The money, endorsements and opinion polls favor her opponent, but Representative Cynthia A. McKinney, who represents Georgia’s Fourth District, has been counting on a movie for last-minute help with the Democratic primary runoff vote here on Tuesday.

    The movie, “American Blackout,” is a documentary that embraces Ms. McKinney as a progressive heroine while chronicling the alleged disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida and Ohio in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

    After winning prizes on the festival circuit, including a special jury award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the movie, directed by Ian Inaba, was headed for commercial release on cable television until Ms. McKinney’s scuffle with a Capitol police officer last March helped put a damper on that plan. Ms. McKinney, who is black, was accused of striking the officer, who is white, after he tried to stop her from entering a House office building. A grand jury declined to indict Ms. McKinney.

    But “American Blackout” was rushed to Atlanta last week, where it opened on Friday at the Landmark Midtown theater, and instantly became a factor in Ms. McKinney’s fight to ward off a challenge from Hank Johnson, a former DeKalb County commissioner. -- American Blackout - Movies - New York Times

    Texas: advice to the Dems -- unite behind one candidate against Bonilla

    Jaime Castillo writes in the San Antonio Express-News: The Democratic Party, increasingly known for ineptitude rather than political prowess, has been handed a rare opportunity with the recent redistricting decision affecting South Texas congressional lines.

    The addition of the heavily Democratic South Side to U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla's far-flung congressional district makes the longtime Republican something he wasn't a few short weeks ago: vulnerable.

    But "vulnerable" doesn't mean easy pickings, either.

    Bonilla possesses the advantages of a well-known name and more than $2 million in campaign cash. And, as a key Hispanic figure in the Latino-lite GOP, he will have national party leaders ready to jump in to help should he need it.

    That's why it will be absolutely critical for local Democrats to show rare discipline by uniting behind one candidate in a race that amounts to a two-month free-for-all once the ballot is certified Sept. 6.

    If two or three Democrats get into the Nov. 7 race, they will lose. Pure and simple. -- Metro | State

    August 5, 2006

    Kansas: self-help newspaper correction gets candidate in trouble

    The Lawrence Journal-World reports: A weekly newspaper in southeast Kansas says Jana Shaver, one of the moderate State Board of Education candidates who won in the Republican Party primary, illegally stuffed her political fliers in the newspaper after it left out her information in a question-and-answer segment for the candidates in the race.

    The Yates Center News, in a column by owner and publisher Stewart Braden, said Shaver’s actions “were unethical as well as illegal.” Braden wrote that he reserved the right to press charges against her, but in an interview Thursday said he wouldn’t.

    Shaver, of Independence, said she was “heartsick” about the whole incident, which she said started because the newspaper omitted her answers to questions that were posed to the candidates in the District 9 education board race. ...

    The paper told her to distribute her fliers at businesses that sell the paper. At one business she started to put her fliers in the paper. Her flier had the same content that had been omitted from the newspaper article on the race, and a political disclaimer at the bottom saying it was paid for by Shaver’s campaign.

    But Braden said such action is trespassing, copyright infringement and misrepresentation of the publication. -- Publisher blasts candidate for illegally stuffing newspapers |

    July 31, 2006

    New York: politics played a role in squelching demonstrations at 2004 convention (gasp)

    The New York Times reports: When city officials denied demonstrators access to the Great Lawn in Central Park during the 2004 Republican National Convention, political advocates and ordinary New Yorkers accused Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of squelching demonstrations that could embarrass fellow Republicans during their gathering.

    The Bloomberg administration denied being guided by politics in banning the protests. Instead, officials said they were motivated by a concern for the condition of the expensively renovated Great Lawn or by law enforcement's ability to secure the crowd.

    But documents that have surfaced in a federal lawsuit over the use of the Great Lawn paint a different picture, of both the rationale for the administration's policy and the degree of Mr. Bloomberg's role in enforcing it.

    Those documents, which include internal e-mail messages and depositions in the court case, show that Mr. Bloomberg's involvement in the deliberations over the protests may have been different from how he and his aides have portrayed it. They also suggest that officials were indeed motivated by political concerns over how the protests would play out while the Republican delegates were in town, and how the events could affect the mayor's re-election campaign the following year. -- In Court Papers, a Political Note on '04 Protests - New York Times

    July 21, 2006

    The Next Big Thing in campaign communications

    The Los Angeles Times reports: Donnie Fowler has seen the future of American politics. Pull out your cellphone and you can see it as well.

    As people increasingly tailor their leisure time to suit their lifestyles — through blogs, MySpace, iPods, video on demand — politicians and their promoters are facing the same problem as Hollywood and the makers of toothpaste: How do you sell your product to an increasingly fragmented audience?

    To Fowler, a veteran Democratic strategist, the next big thing is the small screen on the cellphone in your purse or pocket. In just a few years, he said, the tiny device will allow you to access the Internet in all its vastness, as though you were seated in front of a computer.

    "You'll not only be able to text people with messages, you'll be able to raise money, deliver video, audio, create viral organizing — where one person sees something really interesting and it gets passed on and on," said Fowler, who recently started a company, Cherry Tree Mobile Media, to promote wireless communication as a campaign tool. -- Campaign '08 Preview: Podcasting Politicians - Los Angeles Times

    June 6, 2006

    Alabama: the sludge that passes for campaigning

    Courtney Haden writes in the Birmingham Weekly: If Ed Vaughn or any candidate needs some guidance in the contemporary approach to ad hominem campaigning, he need look no further than my windshield wiper, under which Monday I found a remarkable black-and-white document paid for, but not exorbitantly, by “Citizen of District 54 for Truth.” “Citizen” was thoughtful enough to lay out the “Political Facts/Rap(Profile)” pertinent to those running for the state house in that particular district.

    At the top of the page, one Kamau Afrika is lauded as a father, a widower, an investor and a college graduate with an “unorthodox (crazy) way of getting things done but he gets it done.” Mr. Africa is said to be not only a member of JCCC and AOA but also of AARP, and – this is underlined – ”WILL NOT SUPPORT THE GAY & LESBIAN SAME SEX MARRIAGE AGENDA.”

    Other candidates on the page fare less well with “Citizen.” For example, “Gaynell Hendrix” – she doesn’t actually spell her name that way – merits a semicolon in her excoriation: “This elitist; better than the rest of those blacks and whites attitude corporate welfare queen of ‘we don’t care’.” “Citizen” asserts that she was put in the race as a spoiler by the current representative, George Perdue, and she “supports Perdue’s $150.00 yearly tag tax height.” Which might be about five-foot-eight, unless he’s wearing lifts.

    Patricia Todd? “Never married, no children, BSC and UAB graduate. Endorsed, financed and totally supported by extremist gay, lesbian same sex marriage, political & Marxist PACs that are ‘cumming out’ in a solid block vote.” I believe if “Citizen” could have figured out a way to work in Osama bin Laden and denying the Holocaust, he’d have hit the quinella.

    However, the worst is saved for Emanuel Ford: “Adopted, never married(?), no children(?), no girlfriend(?).” “Citizen” employs the parenthesis and the interrogation point with a delicacy usually found only on Jerry Springer. What’s more, “his 22 years of incompetent stewardship over East Thomas has left that community devastated like a war zone over run with illegal Mexicans.” Picturesque, but then “Citizen” lets you know why Mr. Ford is truly unworthy of elective office: “Recently recovered from hemorrhoids.”

    Somewhere in Washington, Karl Rove is penning admiring fan mail to “Citizen,” saying, “I wish I’d thought of that one.” -- Birmingham Weekly Online

    April 29, 2006

    Pennsylvania: door-to-door soliciting ban struck down

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: A Mt. Lebanon ordinance requiring door-to-door canvassers to register with the police department was struck down yesterday by a federal appeals court.

    The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the registration requirement violates free speech rights guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth amendments.

    The ruling sets new precedent throughout the court's jurisdiction, including all of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands. No municipality may require permits or registration for those wanting to canvass a community for political, religious or other reasons -- provided they are not soliciting money. ...

    The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Mt. Lebanon on behalf of the Service Employees International Union and two women who planned to canvass the suburb as part of a get-out-the-vote campaign before the 2004 presidential election. -- Mt. Lebanon can't force door-to-door canvassers to register, court rules

    April 25, 2006

    Ohio: are the charges to the IRS just "persecution"

    The Canton Repository reported on 8 April regarding the complaint to the IRS: “People certainly have the right to disagree and to debate,” World Harvest spokesman Giles Hudson said. “But for this group — especially members of the clergy — to engage in outright falsehoods for the sake of a political agenda is unconscionable.”

    Among the mistakes cited by World Harvest Church and Pastor Rod Parsley:

    —An allegation that Parsley will feature Blackwell in upcoming “Ohio for Jesus” radio spots.

    Parsley has no such radio campaign planned, and Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo told The Associated Press Friday that Blackwell won’t be participating in any such spots.

    —An allegation that Parsley has escorted and endorsed Blackwell at campaign events.

    The complaint doesn’t cite any such campaign events regarding Blackwell’s run for governor, though it does refer to events Parsley held — at which Blackwell spoke — in favor of a 2004 gay marriage ban.

    —An allegation that Parsley plans to target conservative voters with a voter registration drive.

    Parsley’s Reformation Ohio project has a goal of registering 400,000 new voters but the complaint does not provide evidence that Parsley is seeking only conservatives. --

    Thanks to Brad Smith for encouraging me to look for this older story."

    Ohio: is the IRS dragging its feet on investigation of churches supporting Blackwell?

    The Washington Post reports: In a challenge to the ethics of conservative Ohio religious leaders and the fairness of the Internal Revenue Service, a group of 56 clergy members contends that two churches have gone too far in supporting a Republican candidate for governor.

    Two complaints filed with the tax agency say that the large Columbus area churches, active in President Bush's narrow Ohio win in 2004, violated their tax-exempt status by pushing the candidacy of J. Kenneth Blackwell, who is the secretary of state and the favored candidate of Ohio's religious right. ...

    "You have flagrant intervention continuing and no indication of IRS activity," said Marcus Owens, a lawyer for the group and former director of the IRS office that regulates tax-exempt organizations. He considers the evidence of wrongdoing "pretty overwhelming" and suspects favoritism, which tax agency officials deny.

    Lois Lerner, director of the agency's exempt organizations division, said: "The IRS is interested in enforcing the rules equally against all organizations regardless of whatever political stripe they are. Political appointees are not at all involved in deciding which cases we are going to do." ...

    An April complaint, signed by 56 clergy members, said that Blackwell appeared more than two dozen times at meetings and rallies held by the churches, their leaders or affiliates. Other candidates were not invited or did not attend, according to the complaint.

    In addition, the document said that Blackwell, in his fourth year as secretary of state, took three flights to events opposing same-sex marriage in 2004 aboard World Harvest Church's private plane. He reimbursed the church $1,000. The complaint also said Blackwell would be featured in "Ohio for Jesus" radio advertisements. World Harvest officials later confirmed that Blackwell once flew aboard the World Harvest plane to Texas, which the statement described as "not exactly a popular campaign stop for Ohio candidates." A church statement branded the complaint the work of "left-leaning clergy," a characterization the clergy members dispute. -- Ohio Churches' Political Activities Challenged

    March 26, 2006

    California: GOP candidate sends "handwritten" campaign material with no campaign disclosures

    DavidNYC writes on DailyKos: Fun stuff. Until recently, the CA-50 special election had been a surprisingly low-key affair. However, with the election now less than three weeks away, the Republicans are - unsurprisingly - resorting to dirty tricks. When it comes to sending out campaign communications, there's a little thing called "the law," and one GOPer candidate (Eric Roach) looks to have broken it. Check out 2 USC § 441d:

    Whenever a political committee makes a disbursement for the purpose of financing any communication through any... mailing... such communication... if paid for and authorized by a candidate... shall clearly state that the communication has been paid for by such authorized political committee....

    In other words, if you send out a mailer, you've got to put one of those little disclaimers on it, saying who authorized and paid for the mailer. The Roach campaign sent out a two-page letter - purporting to be from his wife, Meg - but didn't include any disclaimers at all. Not on page one, not on page two, not on the front of the envelope, not on the back of the envelope. -- Daily Kos: CA-50: GOPer Sends Out Possibly Illegal Mailer (& More!)

    March 23, 2006

    Pennsylvania: Pastor's Network responds to CREW complaint

    Let Freedom Ring, Inc. announces: The sponsor of the Pennsylvania Pastor’s Network, Let Freedom Ring, Inc., called yesterday’s complaint against it and others over a Pastors Convocation earlier this month filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (“CREW”) ‘groundless’ and is confident that “this IRS complaint filed by CREW today will be dismissed just as the last IRS complaint CREW filed against us was dismissed.”

    Colin Hanna, President of Let Freedom Ring, sponsor of the Pennsylvania Pastor’s Network (“PPN”) said, “CREW is a partisan front group masquerading as a non-partisan, non-political organization. The complaint filed today is no different from the one CREW filed against Let Freedom Ring for the work we did in 2004. CREW claimed then (as now) that we were violating the law – the IRS agreed with us that we had not violated the law by informing pastors and religious leaders of their rights under the First Amendment to be involved in their community’s public policy debate(s), to educate them about issues of concern to people of faith, to conduct non-partisan voter registration drives and to exercise their rights as citizens. We and all our participants have followed and will continue to follow both the letter and spirit of the law.” -- 'Let Freedom Ring' Calls Washington Group's Latest Harassment of Religious Conservatives Baseless

    March 22, 2006

    Pennsylvania: CREW files complaint against Pastors Network

    CREW announces: Earlier today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) alleging that a get-out-the-vote training session offered by the Pennsylvania Pastors Network (PPN) may have violated IRS rules governing charities.

    The PPN is organized by four conservative organizations: Let Freedom Ring, the Pennsylvania Family Institute, the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, and the Urban Family Council. Let Freedom Ring is a section 501(c)(4) organization and the Pro-Life Federation has section 501(c)(4) and section 501(c)(3) components, but the Pennsylvania Family Institute and the Urban Family Council are both section 501(c)(3) organizations. IRS law explicitly prohibits section 501(c)(3) organizations from engaging in political activities.

    According to an article by David D. Kirkpatrick appearing in the March 21, 2006 edition of The New York Times, the first training get-out-the-vote session set up by the Pennsylvania Pastors Network took place on March 6, 2006 and included a videotaped message from Senator and candidate for the United States Senate, Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). According to the article, after the videotape of Sen. Santorum was played, copies of the Senator's book, "It Takes a Family," were handed out. -- U.S. Newswire : Releases : "CREW Files IRS Complaint Against PA Pastors..."

    March 21, 2006

    Pennsylvania: Pastors Network may draw IRS scrutiny

    The New York Times reports: Weeks after the Internal Revenue Service announced a crackdown on political activities by churches and other tax-exempt organizations, a coalition of nonprofit conservative groups is holding training sessions to enlist Pennsylvania pastors in turning out voters for the November elections.

    Experts in tax law said the sessions, organized by four groups as the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, could test the promises by the tax agency to step up enforcement of the law that prohibits such activity by exempt organizations.

    Such a test could define the boundaries for churches and other groups.

    Although the tax agency has often overlooked political activity by churches, it has repeatedly warned the clergy and religious groups that it intends to enforce its rules with new vigor this year, in part to correct what it considers to have been too much political intervention by churches and charities in 2004.

    The first training session, on March 6 in Valley Forge, included a videotaped message from a single candidate, Senator Rick Santorum, the Pennsylvania Republican who faces a difficult re-election fight. -- Pastors' Get-Out-the-Vote Training Could Test Tax Rules - New York Times

    March 13, 2006

    Astroturf regulation or threat to free speech?

    The New York Times reports: In the eyes of one conservative group, a lesser-known Senate lobbying proposal would have forced Revolutionary patriots to reveal their leafleting routes to King George.

    A fanciful leap, for sure, but what the provision would do is require the disclosure of money spent on the kind of grassroots campaigns that involve paying lobbyists to recruit large numbers of people to call or write or e-mail their lawmakers and press their views on, say, school prayer or trigger locks or greenhouse gases.

    To its supporters, the provision would unmask "Astroturf" ventures, fake grassroots operations with big money funneled through shell groups that employ friendly voices and benign names to cajole voters into swamping government officials with messages. Nearly every elected official has felt the onslaught of mass campaigns: phone lines clogged, letter bins overflowing, servers jammed with e-mail.

    This proposal attracted little attention at first, overshadowed as it was by the clamor over trips on corporate jets and golfing excursions to Scotland. But in recent weeks, it has provoked a lot of noise from outside groups, ranging from the free-speech group American Civil Liberties Union to the conservative Concerned Women for America. They have proved formidable enough that leading Republican senators distanced themselves from the amendment last week to the point where the provision's survival is doubtful. -- The Senate Takes a Look at All Those Happy Pamphleteers - New York Times

    February 25, 2006

    Wisconsin: GOP Caucus staff spent state time on campaigns

    The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports: Assembly Republican Caucus workers took elaborate steps to avoid being caught producing campaign materials on state time, witnesses in the criminal trial of former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen (R-Town of Brookfield) testified Thursday.

    Former caucus staff members Rhonda Baker and Eric Grant told a Dane County jury that those precautions before the 1998 and 2000 elections included:

    ‱ Putting campaign materials, including brochures and fund-raising invitations, in double-sealed envelopes before they went to the Capitol to be reviewed by GOP legislators, party leaders, aides or campaign workers.

    ‱ Whenever possible, making sure that campaign materials were delivered "by yourself or with caucus staff" to those who had requested them or must approve them, Baker said. -- JS Online:Caucus workers describe coverup

    February 18, 2006

    North Carolina: State GOP asks for church directories

    The Washington Post reports: The North Carolina Republican Party asked its members this week to send their church directories to the party, drawing furious protests from local and national religious leaders.

    "Such a request is completely beyond the pale of what is acceptable," said the Rev. Richard Land, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. ...

    Yesterday, the Greensboro News & Record reported that the North Carolina Republican Party was collecting church directories, and it quoted two local pastors as objecting to the practice. The Rev. Richard Byrd Jr. of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro said anyone who sent in a directory "would be betraying the trust of the membership," and the Rev. Ken Massey of the city's First Baptist Church said the request was "encroaching on sacred territory."

    Chris Mears, the state party's political director, made the request in a Feb. 15 memo titled "The pew and the ballot box" that was sent by e-mail to "Registered Republicans in North Carolina." -- In N.C., GOP Requests Church Directories

    February 17, 2006

    Alabama: Ed Packard to run for Secretary of State

    AP reports: Ed Packard, a veteran employee of the secretary of state's office, announced Friday that he will run against his boss, Nancy Worley, in the Democratic primary on June 6.

    Packard, 38, of Montgomery is the first Democrat to announce for Worley's job. On the Republican side, State Auditor Beth Chapman is the lone candidate for Worley's position. ...

    Packard said he decided to make his first race for public office because many changes are occurring in election procedures. "There is a growing dissatisfaction with the way the current leadership has handled the new mandates," he said.

    The candidate said he received encouragement from both Democrats and Republicans to run, but decided to run as a Democrat because of the party's long history of advocating voting rights. -- NewsFlash - Ed Packard to run against boss for secretary of state

    January 13, 2006

    New Jersey: township ordinance prohibits political signs more than 30 days before election

    The Asbury Park Press reports: Brick Township Councilman Stephen C. Acropolis pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he violated a township ordinance prohibiting political signs from being posted more than 30 days before an election.

    The plea was made before Jackson Township Municipal Court Judge Daniel D. Hyman, who said he will notify both Acropolis and Edward C. Mueller, who challenged Acropolis and Mayor Joseph C. Scarpelli in November's mayoral election, when the hearing has been scheduled. Both Acropolis and Mueller told Hyman they did not believe they would have any witnesses.

    Mueller signed the complaint against Acropolis on Sept. 26. In the complaint, he listed eight addresses where the Republicans' signs were posted. Although the signs may not have been on Acropolis' property, Mueller said he believes he is responsible because he was "at the top of the ticket." -- APP.COM v4.0 - Acropolis pleads not guilty to political sign complaint | Asbury Park Press Online

    Thanks to TalkLeft for the link.

    December 16, 2005

    IRS investigations of churches

    NPR reports today on All Things Considered: The IRS has stepped up its investigations of churches accused of endorsing political candidates. The agency is examining about 60 churches over complaints about endorsements from the 2004 election alone.

    It's illegal for a tax-exempt organization like a church to endorse or criticize candidates, but the boundaries aren't always clear. The new focus has raised serious questions for all nonprofit organizations: Can they even discuss politics at all in an election cycle? -- NPR : IRS Investigates Political Activity from Pulpit

    November 19, 2005

    Mark Warner has begun web campaign

    When you set up a website, you're campaigning. Even if the title of your website is FORWARD TOGETHER - Gov. Mark R. Warner, Honorary Chair. And especially since every speech and public appearance covered is ... Mark Warner's.

    I was proud to work for and vote for Mark Warner for Governor. Take a careful and open-minded look at his website. I think you may come away like the person quoted in the blog:

    As one staffer from a former `04 campaign remarked to me, "I came in here just looking" and that he was blown away, saying afterward, "he's our guy."

    Oh, one more thing I just noticed: Jerome Armstrong, or whoever designed the website, has set up a blog that looks like a seamless part of the website, but it has its own URL. Good touch.

    November 7, 2005

    Virginia: GOP's latest dirty trick

    Kos has an MP3 of a call supposedly made by Tim Kaine, Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia: So here's the deal -- the Republicans took statements Kaine has made and spliced them together to put together this out-of-context call. The horrible music in the background is there to mask the splicing.

    This call is being played in liberal areas. A different spliced version of the call, talking about how liberal he is on choice and all those other hot-button social issues, is being played in conservative areas.

    And it's all being funded by the Republican Governor's Association, as Bob at the Swing State Project has noted. -- Daily Kos: VA-Gov: Dirty tricks, the robo call

    The Kaine campaign tells me that they have filed a complaint with the State Election Commission regarding this and earlier dirty tricks by the GOP.

    Arkansas: anonymous political blogs

    The Plank has a post about the GOP gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson encouraging his supporters to blog. But ...

    the new pro-Hutchinson bloggers are entirely anonymous. What's more, they already seem to be doing classic arm's-length dirty work for Hutchinson.

    The Plank likes the idea of blogging -- heck, it's a blog --

    But anonymously throwing dirt on the Internet doesn't seem all that different from leafleting cars in the dark of night.

    November 2, 2005

    House defeats Internet-friendly campaign law

    C-NET reports: Democrats on Wednesday managed to defeat a bill aimed at amending U.S. election laws to immunize bloggers from hundreds of pages of federal regulations.

    In an acrimonious debate that broke largely along party lines, over three-quarters of congressional Democrats voted to oppose the reform bill, which had enjoyed wide support from online activists and Web commentators worried about having to comply with a tangled skein of rules.

    The vote tally in the House of Representatives, 225 to 182, was not enough to send the Online Freedom of Speech Act to the Senate. Under the rules that House leaders adopted to accelerate the process, a two-thirds supermajority was required. ...

    Opponents of the reform plan mounted a last-minute effort to derail the bill before the vote on Wednesday evening. Liberal advocacy groups circulated letters warning the measure was too broad and would invite "corrupt" activities online, and the New York Times wrote in an editorial this week that "the Internet would become a free-fire zone without any limits on spending." -- Democrats defeat election-law aid for bloggers | CNET

    October 25, 2005

    House GOP to push amendment to stop non-profit voter registration and GOTV

    The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights emails: The U.S. House of Representatives will likely vote this week on a provision that would dramatically restrict the ability of Americans to engage in our democratic process. Financial Services Committee Chair Mike Oxley, R-Ohio, will propose a "manager's amendment" to the Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) in the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act (H.R. 1461) that would have a chilling effect on the nonprofit community's ability to participate in nonpartisan voter activities.

    Take action! Call your U.S. Representative TODAY at (202) 224-3121.

    The egregious "manager's amendment" provisions would restrict nonprofit entities from receiving AHF grants if the organization has, in the 12 months prior, engaged in voter registration, voter identification, get-out-the-vote, other nonpartisan voter participation activities, or some types of lobbying or grassroots advocacy. Further, any nonprofit that has "affiliated" with an organization that engages in these activities would be barred from receiving grants. Nonprofits that did receive grants would be prohibited from engaging in any of these activities, even if non-federal funds were used to pay for them. Notably, for-profit companies are exempt from these restrictions.

    These provisions are blatantly undemocratic and likely unconstitutional. Further, they conflict with requirements of the National Voter Registration Act (the "motor voter law"), which requires many agencies that receive state funding to conduct voter registration with their residents or clients. These provisions seem intended for no other purpose than to reduce access to voting by low-income people.

    While the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) supports the Affordable Housing Fund, which would establish grants to produce and preserve housing that is affordable to extremely low and very low-income families, LCCR strongly opposes the anti-democratic provisions in the manager's amendment.

    A broad coalition of housing, community development, faith-based, nonprofit rights, and civil rights organizations are working to have the egregious language removed. It is also critically important that your representative hear from you!

    October 8, 2005

    Virginia: independent candidate sues to get into debate -- and loses

    The Daily Progress reports: A federal judge on Friday rejected Independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr.’s bid to participate in the only statewide televised gubernatorial debate.

    Judge Norman K. Moon made the ruling six hours after hearing arguments surrounding the rules of Sunday’s scheduled debate to feature Democrat Timothy M. Kaine and Republican Jerry Kilgore and sponsored by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

    The center and its director, Larry J. Sabato, were named in the lawsuit, which claimed that Potts’s exclusion is “constitutionally unjustifiable.” -- Judge rules against Potts

    For an earlier story, ...

    Continue reading "Virginia: independent candidate sues to get into debate -- and loses" »

    September 8, 2005

    Washington State: appeals court voids law against lying in campaigns

    AP reports: A law that bars political candidates from deliberately making false statements about their opponents violates the First Amendment right of free speech, an appeals panel has ruled.

    The unanimous three-judge panel of the Washington state Court of Appeals on yesterday dismissed a $1,000 fine imposed by the Public Disclosure Commission on Marilou Rickert of Shelton, an unsuccessful Green Party candidate for the state Senate in 2002.

    “Although the stated intent of the legislature was to ‘provide protection for candidates for public office against false statements of material fact sponsored with actual malice,’ the statute does not require any element of damage to the reputation of the maligned candidate,” Judge C.C. Bridgewater wrote for the appeals panel in Rickert v. Public Disclosure Commission.

    The truth-in-campaigning law also allows candidates to falsely puff up their own records and backgrounds, further showing that it is “not narrowly tailored to the PDC’s interest in promoting integrity and honesty in the elections process and chills protected political speech,” Bridgewater wrote. -- Washington appeals panel tosses ban on campaign lies

    August 25, 2005

    Virginia: strange bedfellows litigate for free speech down at the mall

    The Daily Progress reports: In a nine-page lawsuit filed in Albemarle County Circuit Court, attorneys for both groups [the conservative Rutherford Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia] ask the court to declare that the Virginia Constitution protects the right of free speech, even at privately owned shopping centers.

    “It’s a constitutional provision which provides the basis of the First Amendment. Usually it doesn’t apply to the private sector ... but we believe it applies to private shopping centers when it comes to free speech,” said Steven D. Rosenfield, a Charlottesville lawyer and ACLU volunteer.

    Collins lacked funds to advertise in newspapers or television. So he took his campaign for the Democratic nomination to the 57th House of Delegates seat to the streets, handing out leaflets to people at Shoppers World shopping center off U.S. 29, where Whole Foods is located.Shoppers World Manager Charles Lebo repeatedly asked Collins to leave. But Collins continued to hand out the leaflets. Eventually Lebo called police, and the 70-year-old Collins was arrested and charged with trespassing. ...

    Shopping centers have replaced downtown areas as places where people congregate and share ideas, lawyers for Collins state in the lawsuit. Hence, space for such exchanges has diminished.

    “As corporations and shopping centers get bigger, where do people go? They go to the shopping centers,” Whitehead said. “It’s the only place where people can congregate, where people can exchange ideas, leaflets.” -- Civil groups help Collins in lawsuit

    To make this story a little clearer, here is the text of the Virginia Constitution I think they rely on: "Section 12. Freedom of speech and of the press; right peaceably to assemble, and to petition. That the freedoms of speech and of the press are among the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained except by despotic governments; that any citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; that the General Assembly shall not pass any law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, nor the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for the redress of grievances."

    Thanks to Brian Patton for the link

    August 9, 2005

    North Carolina: Right to Life and a judge file suit

    From a press release by the James Madison Center for Free Speech: Today, Judge Barbara Jackson of the North Carolina Court of Appeals, along with North Carolina Right to Life Committee Fund for Independent Political Expenditures and North Carolina Right to Life State Political Action Committee, filed a class action federal suit in the Middle District of North Carolina against the state's public funding provisions as an unconstitutional infringement on their First Amendment free speech rights.

    Judge Jackson, who won her seat for the North Carolina Court of Appeals in the 2004 general election and intends to run again in 2012, is challenging the effect the financing scheme has on candidates who are not participating in the scheme, but who intend to raise their own campaign funds. In her 2004 judicial campaign for appellate judge, she did not qualify to participate in the public financing scheme but found that her ability to raise and spend funds on her own was severely restricted under the funding scheme. She brings this suit on behalf of herself as well as all judicial candidates who do not qualify to participate in the public financing scheme.

    Download complaint

    July 23, 2005

    "Distributed Phone Banking"

    Politics and Technology has an interesting post on (former GOP candidate for NJ governor) Bret Schundler's development of "distributed phone banking":

    Now renamed Team Volunteer, the software allows call volunteers to access phone scripts, contact names and numbers, and customized questions and polls via the Web from wherever is convenient. Because volunteers enter responses into an online database, aggregated response results as well as volunteer progress can be viewed in real-time.

    Schundler and People Power America have filed for a patent on this technolgy. But, as P&T says,

    That's right, folks, the good folks at MoveOnPAC did just this sort of thing waaaaay back in 2003 during the Gray Davis recall campaign. ...

    If I remember right, some folks did this for Dean too - under (gone now).

    Read the whole post at Politics and Technology: Bret Schundler's Patent Power Grab

    June 29, 2005

    Democrats redesign website

    The Democratic Party has relaunched or redesigned its website. Gone is the name "Kicking Ass" (and the picture of the same) and in with what looks like grassland (or my front yard when my 18-year old son won't cut it). It must be the grassroots -- or about 3 inches above it.

    The other big news from the Party is the new way of raising funds -- Democracy Bonds. Despite the name, "You can only buy one bond."

    June 4, 2005

    Texas: Gov. Perry and church stage a campaign event (?)

    The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports: Democrats and a group dedicated to keeping religion out of politics are protesting Gov. Rick Perry's plans to use a Fort Worth Christian school to sign bills aimed at cracking down on abortion and gay marriage.

    On Thursday, the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State called on Perry to cancel plans for the weekend bill signing or risk jeopardizing the tax-exempt status of the school and the church that oversees it.

    "This is an absolutely grotesque misuse of the church to serve any politician's political interests. That's why we urge him to drop the whole idea," said Barry Lynn, director of Americans United. "If we're convinced that he has no possibility of changing his mind ... we will file a complaint with the IRS." ...

    News of the bill-signing ceremony broke earlier this week when the Star-Telegram received an e-mail that originated from Perry's re-election campaign.

    It said the Republican governor would stage a ceremony at Calvary Cathedral in Fort Worth on Sunday to sign into law a bill requiring that minors receive written permission from their parents before receiving an abortion.

    He'll also sign the gay marriage proposition even though it's just a formality, because only voters can amend the Constitution. -- Star-Telegram | 06/03/2005 | Plans for bill signing draw protests

    May 11, 2005

    North Carolina: "repent or resign"

    The Charlotte News & Observer reports: The pastor of a Waynesville Baptist church who tried to force his political views on his members resigned Tuesday night, taking a few dozen members with him.

    The Rev. Chan Chandler, pastor of East Waynesville Baptist Church in the Blue Ridge Mountains, did not apologize for the division he caused and said only that his underlying concern was to save unborn babies from abortion. ...

    The church had been embroiled in partisan politics since October, when Chandler told his 100-member congregation that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry needed to "repent or resign."

    Many older members, lifelong Democrats, resented the way Chandler, a Haywood County native, imposed his political views on the church, and tried to steer him away from politics. It didn't work. -- | Local & State

    May 8, 2005

    North Carolina: Waynesville pastor backpeddles

    AP reports: Calling it a "great misunderstanding," the pastor of a small church who led the charge to remove nine members for their political beliefs tried to welcome them back Sunday, but some insisted he must leave for the wounds to heal.

    The Rev. Chan Chandler didn't directly address the controversy during the service at East Waynesville Baptist Church, but issued a statement afterward through his attorney saying the church does not care about its members' political affiliations.

    "No one has ever been voted from the membership of this church due to an individual's support or lack of support for a political party or candidate," he said.

    Nine members said they were ousted during a church gathering last week by about 40 others because they refused to support President Bush. They attended Sunday's service with their lawyer and many supporters. -- - Pastor tries to calm waters over political oustings - May 8, 2005

    May 7, 2005

    North Carolina: praise the Lord and pass the ballots

    AP reports: Some in Pastor Chan Chandler's flock wish he had a little less zeal for the GOP. Members of the small East Waynesville Baptist Church say Chandler led an effort to kick out congregants who didn't support President Bush. Nine members were voted out at a Monday church meeting in this mountain town, about 120 miles west of Charlotte.

    "He's the kind of pastor who says do it my way or get out," said Selma Morris, the church treasurer who was among those voted out. "He's real negative all the time."

    Chandler didn't return a message left by The Associated Press at his home Friday, and several calls to the church went unanswered. He told WLOS-TV in Asheville that the actions were not politically motivated.

    The station also reported that 40 others in the 100-member congregation resigned in protest after Monday's vote.

    During the presidential election last year, Chandler told the congregation that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic Sen. John Kerry should either leave the church or repent, said former member Lorene Sutton. -- AP Wire | 05/07/2005 | Democrats voted out of Baptist church

    May 5, 2005

    Kentucky: State Senator indicted for vote fraud

    AP reports: State Sen. Johnny Ray Turner and two others were indicted Thursday for mail fraud and conspiracy to rig his 2000 campaign with bought votes and phantom contributors. ...

    The indictment alleges Turner and his coconspirators funneled money from Harris through straw contributors and illegally paid people to vote and hid it by claiming to pay them for driving voters to the polls during the 2000 Democratic primary.

    The charges also allege Turner filed false reports to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

    "Vote hauling," as it is known and widely practiced, has long been acknowledged as a way to influence elections. But paying vote haulers is not illegal in Kentucky.

    [U.S. Attorney George F.] Van Tatenhove said Turner's campaign never expected or received legitimate services for the payments. -- AP Wire | 05/05/2005 | State senator indicted for mail fraud relating to campaign

    Now we see that Turner was not accused of "vote hauling" but of NOT vote hauling.

    April 27, 2005

    Judge holds government employees' emails did not violated Hatch Act

    The Washington Post reports: Two government employees did not violate restrictions against partisan politics in the federal workplace last fall when they sent politically charged e-mails to more than 20 of their colleagues, an administrative law judge ruled this month.

    The April 14 ruling by Judge Arthur J. Amchan of the Merit Systems Protection Board dismissed attempts by the Office of Special Counsel to have the two Social Security Administration workers fired for violating the Hatch Act, which limits political activity by employees in federal offices and on government time. ...

    But Amchan ruled that the e-mails amounted to the electronic equivalent of a discussion of politics around the office water cooler, something that is legal.

    "In some circumstances, a federal employee using his or her computer in a government office may violate the Hatch Act by engaging in 'political activity,' " Amchan wrote in his 16-page opinion. "However, an expression of personal opinion does not constitute political activity merely because it is disseminated to two dozen individuals with one or several computer keystrokes." -- Judge Rejects Sanction Over Political E-Mails

    November 16, 2004

    Young voters surveyed

    The Chicago Tribune reports: Young people who voted on Election Day were more Democratic, less religious, less likely to be white and trusted faux news anchor Jon Stewart more than two of the Big Three network news anchors, according to post-election surveys released Tuesday.

    The portrait drawn of young voters - from the Emerging Electorate Survey and the Declare Yourself 2004 Campaign Evaluation Survey - suggests that 18-to-29-year-olds, who voted in record numbers Nov. 2, are more politically engaged than critics complain and history would indicate.

    After aggressive voter registration efforts, about 21 million people younger than 30 voted, an increase of about 4.6 million from 2000. Turnout among registered voters in that age group was 51.6 percent, up more than 9 percentage points from 42.3 percent in the last presidential election. ...

    In a potentially ominous sign for traditional news media, young voters were much more inclined to learn about the candidates and the issues from the Internet, which the authors said is emerging as a counterbalance to cable television and talk radio.

    Young people who listened to at least four hours of talk radio a week narrowly preferred President Bush over Sen. John Kerry. Those who cited the Internet as their primary source backed Kerry over Bush, 62 percent to 36 percent. -- KRT Wire | 11/16/2004 | Survey reveals young voters more politically engaged than thought

    November 5, 2004

    Turnout report and other observations

    The Center for the Study of the American Electorate reported today: Deep emotions about the presidency of George W. Bush, both pro and con, and unprecedentedly vigorous and expensive voter mobilization drives propelled voter turnout in the 2004 general election to its highest level since 1968, despite long lines at polling places that had some citizens waiting as much as seven hours to cast their ballots.

    –When all the vote-counting is completed by early December, it is predicted that an estimated 120,200,000 citizens will have cast their votes for President in this election, a 59.6 turnout rate of eligible citizens, the highest since 1968 when 61.9 percent of eligibles voted.

    –Nearly 15 million more Americans voted in 2004 than in 2000 when 105,400,000 voted, a 54.3 percent voting rate.

    –The Republicans’ centralized, professional and highly targeted voter identification and get-out-the-vote campaign bested the Democrats’ decentralized but equally vigorous mobilization efforts. ...

    –Turnout in battleground states increased by 6.3 percentage points, while turnout in the other states (and the District of Columbia) increased by only 3.8 percentage points.

    –Democratic turnout increased by nearly three times in battleground states (up 3.6 percentage points) as compared to 1.5 percentage points in the other states, pointing to the concentration of resources the party devoted to the battlegrounds.

    –On the other hand, GOP turnout increases were roughly equal (4.4 percentage points in battleground states and 3.9 in the others), speaking to the long-term and successful strategy of Presidential political advisor Karl Rove in targeting evangelical fundamentalists and rural voters as the constituencies where Republican turnout could be increased.

    –Evidence for this was augmented by the six states which had record high turnout in this election, all voting for the President – Alabama (54.8 percent of eligibles), Georgia (49.6), Florida (61.8), South Carolina (50.8), Tennessee (54.5) and Virginia (58.4). The District of Columbia also recorded a new high (52.3).

    –When final counting is done, only one state – Arizona – is likely to have recorded a decline in turnout. Only in South Dakota did a race for statewide office (Daschle-Thune) exceed the vote for President and that by only 3,000 votes.

    –On the other hand, turnout for Kerry was lower than that for other statewide Democratic aspirants (for governor, U.S. Senate or aggregate vote for House of Representatives) in 28 states out of 37 states which had statewide contests. The President’s turnout was lower in only nine states of 37.

    –Ralph Nader received less than 0.2 percent of the eligible vote and all non-major party candidates, including Nader, received 0.9 percent of the eligible vote.

    –While there are no reliable figures on the much-publicized youth turnout (exit polls are notoriously and consistently unreliable on turnout questions), it is likely that college-attending youth substantially increased their turnout rate in the states in which they were targeted – the battleground states. It is also probable that college-attending youth increased their turnout much more modestly in non-battleground states. But it is likely that there were no increases in turnout of non-college-attending youth who were largely not targeted. -- CSAE press release via Center for Voting & Democracy

    Note: for a different take on Kerry's ability, see this on DonkeyRising.

    October 31, 2004

    FCC tells Pappas it can't offer free ads to Republicans only

    AP reports: A San Joaquin Valley broadcaster cannot aid Republican candidates with free air time unless the same offer is extended to other candidates, the Federal Communications Commission ruled Friday.

    Pappas Telecasting Cos., which had donated $325,000 in air time on its radio and TV stations to 13 GOP county committees last week, had insisted for days that the gifts were legal and did not trigger federal equal time rules.

    It was not clear whether the company would appeal the staff ruling to the full commission. Phone calls to the Visalia-based company, which operates 28 stations in 11 states, were not immediately returned.

    Communications lawyers said they were not surprised by the ruling. -- FCC orders San Joaquin Valley broadcaster to stop free GOP ads (AP via

    October 30, 2004

    "I approve this message"

    The New York Times reports: They were four words that were expected to forever change the tone of television politics: "I approve this message."

    They were part of a provision of the new campaign finance law that requires candidates to appear in their own commercials to endorse them, in part to discourage outrageous attack advertisements.

    And it seemed to work for a time, during the primary season. But advertisements in the presidential and Congressional races are just as harsh, perhaps harsher, than they have ever been, political analysts say. And pollsters are mixed about whether the candidates are paying a price among voters for having their faces in their attack advertisements.

    The thing Republicans and Democrats can agree upon this campaign season is that the support provision has not affected the tone and tenor of the advertising war, despite the hopes of so many of its proponents.

    Some argue that the partisan lines are drawn so deep this year, the policy differences so serious, that no outside factor could restrain the inevitable hyperbole. Others say the provision did not have a shot anyway. -- Advertising: An Idea, With 4 Words, That Was Supposed to Soothe the Tone of Ads but Did Not (New York Times)

    October 28, 2004

    6th Circuit voids some restrictions on judicial candidate speech

    The Lexington Herald-Leader reports: Judicial candidates are free to express their views in the final six days before the Nov. 2 election, a federal appeals court decided Thursday.

    The decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 6th District Thursday allowed the suspension of rules involving judicial candidate speech.

    The state's judicial canon says that judicial candidates cannot make statements that commit or appear to commit a candidate to a particular stance or issue that may come before the court.

    Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Danny Reeves said the state's rules regarding judicial speech violated a candidate's First Amendment right to free speech. As part of the decision, the state's judicial watchdog group and the bar association, which regulates lawyers who are candidates for judge, were barred from enforcing the rules regarding judicial speech. -- Appeals ruling allows judicial candidates to state opinions (Lexington Herald-Leader )

    Bush campaign website blocks foreign viewers

    The Washington Post reports: The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has barred people outside the United States from viewing its Web site following an electronic attack that took down the campaign's Internet address for six hours last week, according to computer security experts.

    Since midnight on Monday, no one outside the United States except people in Canada could see the site, said Rich Miller, a security analyst for Netcraft, a Web site monitoring firm in Bath, England. Internet users from other countries instead see a white page featuring the message: "Access denied: You don't have permission to access on this server."

    The move happened one week after the Bush-Cheney and Republican National Committee sites were unavailable for almost six hours. Security experts said the outage probably was the result of a "distributed denial-of-service attack," in which hackers use tens of thousands of hijacked computers to overwhelm Web sites by flooding them with bursts of digital data. -- Bush Web Site Bars Overseas Visitors (

    October 24, 2004

    Election year activities of 501(c)(3) organizations

    Steven Sholk emails: I am pleased to announce that an updated version of my article, "A Guide to Election Year Activities of Section 501(c)(3) Organizations," has been published by Practising Law Institute as part of the course handbook for the seminar, "Tax Strategies for Corporate Acquisitions, Dispositions, Spin-Offs, Joint Ventures, Financings, Reorganizations & Restructurings 2004."

    My thanks to Steven and PLI for allowing me to share this file with you. I have used prior versions of this article and look forward to reading this one.

    October 20, 2004

    Turning out the vote may cost $350 million for interest groups

    The New York Times reports: In a presidential race whose outcome is expected to hang on turnout at the polls, an army of interest groups is pumping at least $350 million into get-out-the-vote campaigns that are rewriting the tactics of elections.

    The efforts are part of the most expensive voter-drive ground war in history. It includes the major parties and their allies, the independent but partisan groups known as 527's, whose attack advertisements have played a big role in both President Bush's and Senator John Kerry's campaigns.

    And for the first time in a national campaign, it includes hundreds of civic organizations and deep-pocketed business interests.

    These groups, including the United States Chamber of Commerce and coalitions of charities, are using millions of dollars from donors that the groups are not required to identify. And though the groups are nonpartisan, some emphasize issues identified with one candidate or the other. -- Advocacy Groups: Interest Groups Mounting Costly Push to Get Out Vote (New York Times)

    Minnesota judicial campaign rules still under challenge

    St. Paul Pioneer Press reports: A new round begins Wednesday in the lengthy legal battle over how Minnesota's judicial candidates campaign for office.

    Golden Valley lawyer Greg Wersal and his co-appellants, including the Republican Party of Minnesota, seek to convince a panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that judicial candidates should be allowed to personally solicit campaign funds and seek political party endorsements.

    If the appellate judges side with Wersal and his co-appellants, it could open judicial elections to partisan politics.

    "The way things are now it makes running for office almost impossible," said Wersal, a former candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court.

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that judicial candidates can speak out about controversial topics but did not consider the details of running for election and returned the case to the appeals court for further review. -- Judicial politics up for review (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

    Federal court enjoins Kentucky rules on judicial campaigns

    AP reports: Judicial candidates should be allowed to express opinions in campaign speeches without fear of being punished by Kentucky's restrictions on campaign speech, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

    U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves ruled that the state Judicial Conduct Commission and Kentucky Bar Association cannot punish a candidate for making statements that appear to commit that candidate to a certain stance or issue.

    "Kentucky's canon of judicial conduct that professes to prohibit candidates from making promises, pledges or commitments, in fact limits the candidate's ability to announce his or her views in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution," Reeves wrote.

    Reeves' ruling does not take effect until tomorrow, and lawyers for the Bar Association and the Judicial Conduct Commission said they would most likely appeal. -- Kentucky judicial candidates can speak out (AP via

    October 18, 2004

    "The liberals do a better job than conservatives with direct mail"

    The Washington Post reports: Few people are as closely identified with the right wing of the political spectrum as Richard A. Viguerie. In nearly four decades of six-day-a-week labors, the pioneer of direct-mail rabble-rousing has helped create hundreds of organizations -- including Gun Owners of America, the National Right to Work Foundation and the National Conservative Political Action Committee -- and was instrumental in electing such noted and controversial conservatives as Jesse Helms and Bob Dornan. He's been called "the funding father of the conservative movement."

    Then why is he saying such nice things about liberals? The reason, Viguerie says, is that facts are facts: When it comes to stirring up the masses, the political left is doing a better job than the right in getting its message across. The 71-year-old ideological warrior believes that left-leaning groups are miles ahead in using the world's most powerful and efficient marketing tool -- the Internet -- for political advocacy. And as remarkable as it sounds, he also says that the left has eclipsed the right in Viguerie's own specialty, direct mail.

    "On balance, in my opinion, the liberals do a better job than conservatives with direct mail," Viguerie said this summer in a speech to the Direct Marketing Association's Nonprofit Federation in New York. And in an interview here, he adds: "In terms of using the Internet for political activism in recent years, the left is running circles around conservatives."

    Viguerie is uniquely qualified to draw such conclusions. His Manassas-based firm, now called American Target Advertising Inc., has mailed more than 2 billion letters over the past 40 years and will send more than 100 million pieces of direct mail this year. The purpose of all that postage: to build support for "New Right" causes that range from cutting taxes to bolstering family values. Viguerie's chief asset is a list of 3 1/2 million names of people who can reliably be called upon to support such causes with their votes and their dollars. He also has worked for years to make inroads into Internet politics. -- Liberal Praise Drawn From Unlikely Source (

    October 13, 2004

    Kerry criticized for campaigning in churches

    The New York Times reports: Liberal religious groups criticized Senator John Kerry yesterday as politicizing religion by campaigning in African-American churches.

    A spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the group would file a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Miami, where Mr. Kerry spoke Sunday along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

    Tax laws restrict churches and tax-exempt charities from supporting political candidates. "It was all Democratic speakers, and a pastor got up and endorsed Kerry from the pulpit," the spokesman, Joe Conn, said. "It was over the line."

    For a brief period last week, the Democratic National Committee Web site asked pastors to distribute campaign materials, but the request was removed amid complaints. -- Kerry Is Criticized for Church Drive (New York Times) **

    October 12, 2004

    Some Roman Catholic bishops opposing Kerry

    The New York Times reports: For Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the highest-ranking Roman Catholic prelate in Colorado, there is only one way for a faithful Catholic to vote in this presidential election, for President Bush and against Senator John Kerry.

    "The church says abortion is a foundational issue,'' the archbishop explained to a group of Catholic college students gathered in a sports bar here in this swing state on Friday night. He stopped short of telling them whom to vote for, but he reminded them of Mr. Kerry's support for abortion rights. And he pointed out the potential impact his re-election could have on Roe v. Wade.

    "Supreme Court cases can be overturned, right?" he asked.

    Archbishop Chaput, who has never explicitly endorsed a candidate, is part of a group of bishops intent on throwing the weight of the church into the elections. -- Religion: Group of Bishops Using Influence to Oppose Kerry (New York Times)

    October 11, 2004

    Florida's blacks determined to be counted this time

    The Los Angeles Times reports: Many of Florida's 1 million black voters still feel cheated that their votes weren't counted in the state's flawed election four years ago. But for some, such as those here in rural Gadsden County, that bitter memory has elicited a surge of activism in the 2004 presidential race.

    The Panhandle county, overwhelmingly Democratic and nearly 60% black, has its first African American elections supervisor traveling to schools and churches to demonstrate new ballot-reading machines.

    County officials have added 10 polling locations and will send a sample ballot to the home of every registered voter, rather than just publish it in the newspaper.

    And Shirley Aaron, a 63-year-old Democratic organizer, is wandering back roads, talking to poor black families who've never been approached for their vote. She also attends possum festivals and gospel revivals to tell blacks that this time their vote will count. -- Nov. 2 Is V-Day for Blacks in Florida (

    New Hampshire judge bars Republican Governors Association from political activity

    Jurist reports: A New Hampshire judge has upheld a state attorney general's order which temporarily bars the Republican Governors Association, the official public policy and political organization of the Republican governors in the United States, from engaging in political activities in New Hampshire. Superior Court Judge Carol Ann Conboy, who issued a temporary injunction today, will hold a hearing for a permanent injunction on Thursday. The New Hampshire attorney general's office issued the order last week after the Democratic Party filed a complaint accusing the Republican Governors Association of hiring polling companies to conduct negative polls against Democratic gubernatorial challenger John Lynch. According to the order, the association must suspend its political activities until it registers as a political committee. -- Republican Governors Association barred from engaging in political activities in New Hampshire (JURIST - Paper Chase)

    Jurist has a link to the injunction and an AP story.

    October 5, 2004

    Union charges Bush campaign violates Hatch Act

    The Washington Post reports: Military and civilian employees at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque received an unusual e-mail inviting them to attend an Aug. 26 campaign rally for President Bush.

    "The White House has extended an invitation to TEAM KIRTLAND to attend President Bush's speech downtown at the Convention Center," read the message, sent by Deborah Mercurio, the director of public affairs for the 377th Air Base Wing. "Doors open at 12:00 p.m. and no one is to arrive later than 2:00 p.m. For those interested, please stop by the Wing PA office for tickets." ...

    To federal employee unions, it represented the latest attempt by the Bush administration and its supporters to transform what is supposed to be a politically neutral federal bureaucracy into an arm of the president's reelection campaign. Bush spent the day touting his record in three cities across the battleground state, which he lost by 366 votes four years ago. ...

    At the same time, federal bosses have tried to restrict their employees from volunteering on their own time for Democratic nominee John F. Kerry and issued guidelines on campaigning on federal property that favor Bush, the administration's critics say. ...

    White House spokeswoman Erin Healy dismissed as unfounded the union's allegations that officials have trampled the spirit -- and at times the letter -- of the Hatch Act, a decades-old law that restricts partisan political activities in the federal workplace. -- Partisan Politics at Work Criticized (

    October 1, 2004

    House Ethics Committee "admonishes" DeLay for quid pro quo offer

    The Washington Post reports: The House ethics committee admonished Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) last night for offering a political favor to a Michigan lawmaker in exchange for the member's vote on last year's hard-fought Medicare prescription drug bill.

    After a six-month investigation, the committee concluded that DeLay had told Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) he would endorse the congressional bid of Smith's son if the congressman gave GOP leaders a much-needed vote in a contentious pre-dawn roll call on Nov. 22. ...

    According to the report, Nick Smith told ethics committee investigators that DeLay approached him on the House floor during a series of votes leading to the final showdown on the Medicare bill. Smith told the panel that DeLay "told him that he would personally endorse Representative Smith's son in the Republican primary" if Smith "voted in favor of the Medicare legislation." According to Smith's version, DeLay added, "that's my last offer," and the congressman "teared up" at the majority leader's offer. The exchange lasted "about eight seconds," Smith said.

    The report said DeLay testified to the committee "that he did say words to the effect of: 'I will personally endorse your son. That's my final offer.' " DeLay recalled that the exchange took place before the three-hour roll call on the bill's final passage, the report said.

    DeLay told the investigators that Smith "first raised the subject of his son's campaign," and DeLay believed Smith was "fishing to see what I would say."

    DeLay had brushed aside a similar overture from Smith several weeks earlier, but this time offered to endorse the son in exchange for Smith's vote, the report said. DeLay told investigators that if Smith had voted for the Medicare bill, then the majority leader "would have made good on his promise and endorsed Brad Smith." -- Ethics Panel Rebukes DeLay (

    Roll Call add these details: Reps. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the four-member investigative subcommittee that handled the Smith probe, “deliberated extensively” on whether the Majority Leader had broken House rules by offering his endorsement in exchange for Smith’s vote. They acknowledged that is normal practice for a “Member’s conditioning support” for legislation in return for “future consideration” by party leaders or their colleagues, and admitted that it is one way for senior lawmakers to maintain “party discipline.”

    But in this case, the subcommittee felt DeLay may have strayed over the line of acceptable behavior, although the full committee voted not to pursue the matter any further. “The promise of political support for a relative of a Member goes beyond the boundaries of maintaining party discipline, and should not be used as a basis of a bargain for Members to achieve their respective goals,” the report stated.

    However, the ethics committee admitted it was treading on unexplored ground in reviewing DeLay’s interaction with Smith during the Medicare vote. “The issues raised by the conduct of the Majority Leader in this matter are novel and the implications of such conduct have never before been addressed or resolved by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct,” according to the report. “Indeed, the Majority Leader’s testimony indicates that he did not believe that he acted improperly under House rules during his encounter with Representative Smith.” -- Ethics Panel Admonishes DeLay, Michigan's Miller and Smith (Roll Call)

    Thanks to Trevor Potter for sending me the Roll Call article (since I don't have a subscription).

    September 27, 2004

    501(c) organizations active in the campaign

    The Washington Post reports: Unlike the campaigns of President Bush and Kerry, the two major parties, political action committees and the Swift Boat Veterans -- one of the "527" advocacy groups that have become part of the 2004 campaign lexicon -- Citizens United and Project Vote operate under the radar of regulation and public disclosure in what campaign finance expert Anthony Corrado of the Brookings Institution and Colby College described as "a real black hole."

    Known as 501c groups, for a statute in the tax code, these tax-exempt advocacy and charitable organizations are conduits for a steady stream of secretive cash flowing into the election, in many respects unaffected by the McCain-Feingold legislation enacted in 2002. Unlike other political groups, 501c organizations are not governed by the Federal Election Commission but by the Internal Revenue Service, which in a complex set of regulations delineates a range of allowable activities that are subject to minimal disclosure long after Election Day.

    A 501c (3) group can register voters, and donations to it are tax deductible, but it is prohibited from engaging in partisan or electioneering work. A 501c (4), (5) or (6) group can be involved in elections, but the cost of doing so must be less than one-half the group's total budget. Public Citizen, in a report last week titled "The New Stealth PACs," contended that many of the politically active 501c (4) groups regularly spend more than half their budgets on political activities in violation of IRS rules. -- New Routes for Money to Sway Voters (

    September 26, 2004

    The perils of shipping to the office

    AP reports: A complaint alleging the Utah Boys Ranch illegally aided in the re-election campaign of state Sen. Chris Buttars has been filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

    Salt Lake City attorney Thomas Thompson requested the IRS undertake a formal investigation of the private, nonprofit school for troubled youth in West Jordan. Buttars, R-West Jordan, is the tax-exempt school's executive director.

    Thompson filed the complaint on behalf of a client, who requested anonymity.

    A sworn statement included with the complaint claims boxes of Buttars' Senate campaign brochures were "maintained" in his Boys Ranch office. It also alleges the school's telephones were used for "campaign purposes."

    Buttars, who will retire Thursday after 15 years as Boys Ranch director, acknowledged having campaign materials delivered to the school and talking to constituents and campaign supporters on office phones. -- Complaint Against Buttars Filed with IRS (AP via KSL News)

    September 22, 2004

    "Pastor policy briefings"

    The Knight Ridder Newspapers report: "A pastor who really believes in being salt and light should be ministering to his representatives and senators. He should know them." That's the message Johnston and the Rev. Jerry Falwell are taking to hundreds of Christian leaders across Kansas City as they try to energize them in advance of the Nov. 2 election.

    Johnston's event is the latest incarnation of how churches and Christian conservatives are mobilizing as the election approaches. The so-called "pastor policy briefings" got underway this week with Falwell speaking at Johnston's 3,000-member First Family Church in south Overland Park.

    "I am going to try to motivate the pastors to do something, to not be silent and to become engaged in a long-term process," Johnston said. "The big deal is getting people informed, targeting that 50 percent of the evangelical vote that is not voting." Others across the country are just as eager as Johnston to fire up Christian voters. For example, James Dobson, founder of the Christian ministry Focus on the Family, has been holding "Stand for the Family" rallies across the country. A recent rally held in Springdale, Ark., was attended by 3,000 people. ...

    Last month, more than a dozen Christian ethics scholars wrote a letter to the president rebuking his campaign for asking for the church directories.

    "It is proper for church leaders to address social issues, but it is improper, and even illegal, for them to get their churches to endorse candidates or align their churches with a specific political party," the letter states. -- Preaching political involvement (Knight Ridder via

    September 16, 2004

    Ohio judicial candidates now free to tell the truth, the whole truth ...

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: Judicial candidates should be free to speak their minds and declare their party affiliations, a federal judge said Tuesday.

    The ruling opens the door for all judicial candidates to call themselves Democrats or Republicans, some observers said. Previously, candidates could only claim partisanship after a primary election in personal appearances, not in literature.

    U.S. District Judge Ann Aldrich declared unconstitutional the restriction on declaring political identity, as well as a canon that restricts candidates in the way they use the term "judge" in literature if they are running for a different seat from the one they hold. -- Judicial candidates free to reveal their politics (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

    Thanks to Howard Bashman's How Appealing for the link. Howard also has a link to the decision.

    September 8, 2004

    "You can't erase this memory"

    The New York Times reports in an article on several campaign workers who are moving between 527s and official campaigns: Indeed, campaign finance lawyers in both parties say the regulations were primarily written to address the flow of personnel and strategic information from campaigns to 527 committees and other outside groups, not the other way around.

    Advocates say that the rules, as written, do not go far enough to constrain coordination.

    "There's a hole in the rules,'' Mr. Wertheimer said. "They only go one way."

    Yet officials on both sides say that as long as people are free to move between the committees and the campaigns, there is no way to prohibit them from sharing knowledge they may have gained in old jobs.

    "You can't own people's brains," said Wes Boyd, a founder of "They have to be able to make a living."

    Jan Witold Baran, a Republican election lawyer, said: "You can't prohibit what people have in their heads and their minds. You can't erase this memory." -- The Advisers: Advocacy Groups And Campaigns: An Uneasy Shuttle (New York Times)

    August 28, 2004

    Going after one electoral vote

    Taegan Goddard's Political Wire reports: The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire reminds us of how tight the presidential race is: "Only those two states don't have a winner-take-all system for Electoral College votes. In a sign of how close both parties see the race, Kerry folks eye a congressional district in otherwise solidly pro-Bush Nebraska, while Bush backers do the same in Maine though they expect the state overall to favor Kerry."

    August 26, 2004

    Ginsberg resigns from Bush campaign

    The New York Times reports: The national counsel for President Bush's re-election campaign resigned on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after he acknowledged that he had provided legal advice to a veterans group that has leveled unsubstantiated attacks on Senator John Kerry's Vietnam War record in a book and on the air. ...

    The resignation of the counsel, Benjamin L. Ginsberg, was announced in the morning by the Bush campaign, which released a letter Mr. Ginsberg had written to the president saying he had done nothing wrong but did not want to hamper the president's re-election effort.

    "I cannot begin to express my sadness that my legal representations have become a distraction from the critical issues at hand in this election,'' Mr. Ginsberg said in his letter.

    The quick resignation suggests that the Bush campaign, which has repeatedly said it has no ties to the Swift boat veterans group attacking Mr. Kerry, is eager to put the issue behind it as it heads into the Republican National Convention. -- Lawyer for Bush Quits Over Links to Kerry's Foes (New York Times)

    August 25, 2004

    Top lawyers for both campaigns also advise 527's

    The New York Times reports: The Bush campaign's top outside lawyer said Tuesday that he had given legal advice to the group of veterans attacking Senator John Kerry's Vietnam War record and antiwar activism in a book, television commercials and countless appearances on cable news programs.

    The lawyer, Benjamin L. Ginsberg, said that the group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, called him last month to ask for his help and that he agreed. Mr. Ginsberg said that he had yet to work out payment details with the group and that he might consider doing the work pro bono.

    Mr. Ginsberg, the chief outside counsel to the Bush-Cheney re-election effort, agreed to an interview after several telephone calls to him and the campaign's asking that he explain his role. He said that he was helping the group comply with campaign finance rules and that his work was entirely separate from his work for the president. President Bush has called for an end to advertising by all groups like that of the Swift boat veterans, called 527's for the section of the tax code that created them.

    The campaign of Senator John Kerry shares a lawyer, Robert Bauer, with America Coming Together, a liberal group that is organizing a huge multimillion-dollar get-out-the-vote drive that is far more ambitious than the Swift boat group's activities. Mr. Ginsberg said his role was no different from Mr. Bauer's. -- Advertising: Bush Campaign's Top Outside Lawyer Advised Veterans Group (New York Times)

    August 22, 2004

    "The Political Brain"

    The New York Times Magazine's Idea Lab column discusses the idea that the amygdala plays a key role in the creation of emotions such as fear or empathy: If amygdala activity is a reliable indication of emotional response, a fascinating possibility opens up: turning [Dick] Armey's muddled poetry into a testable hypothesis. Do liberals ''think'' with their limbic system more than conservatives do? As it happens, some early research suggests that Armey might have been on to something after all.

    As The Times reported not long ago, a team of U.C.L.A. researchers analyzed the neural activity of Republicans and Democrats as they viewed a series of images from campaign ads. And the early data suggested that the most salient predictor of a ''Democrat brain'' was amygdala activity responding to certain images of violence: either the Bush ads that featured shots of a smoldering ground zero or the famous ''Daisy'' ad from Lyndon B. Johnson's 1964 campaign that ends with a mushroom cloud. Such brain activity indicates a kind of gut response, operating below the level of conscious control.

    Could the U.C.L.A. researchers be creating the political science of the future? Consider this possibility: the scientists do an exhaustive survey and it turns out that liberal brains have, on average, more active amygdalas than conservative ones. It's a plausible outcome that matches some of our stereotypes about liberal values: an aversion to human suffering, an unwillingness to rationalize capital punishment and military force, a fondness for candidates who like to feel our pain. -- Idea Lab: The Political Brain (The New York Times Magazine)

    August 21, 2004

    "It's election month and a half"

    The New York Times reports on the absentee ballot campaigns by the Dems and the GOP: "It's election month and a half," said Jason Glodt, executive director of the Republican Party in South Dakota.

    The state parties, furthering a trend already in evidence in 2002, are accelerating their schedules, gearing up activities like rounding up volunteers and releasing advertisements to reach the early voter. But the get-out-the-early-vote phenomenon has further potential implications for how the nation chooses its leaders. Political parties may be able to bank votes when their candidate is up in the polls. They may also be able to soften the blow of hit mail, televised debates or any late-season event - the "October surprise" - that could sway large numbers of voters.

    Early voting is also letting political parties get around one Election Day hallmark: the century-old anticorruption laws that force partisans to keep their distance from polling places. The laws do not apply to catching people at home with their ballots, and that has freed party tacticians to devise plans, largely unpublicized, to court the early vote. The plans include helping to register voters expressly to vote absentee, mailing out tip sheets on avoiding errors that could disqualify absentee votes, and even collecting completed ballots.

    In short, said Michelle Davidson, the Democratic operative who engineered the early-voter roundup in Arizona, "You can violate the 75-foot rule." -- Both Parties See New Promise When the Ballot Is in the Mail

    August 18, 2004

    Ten Christian ethicists criticize Bush's church outreach campaign

    The Washington Post reports: Ten teachers of Christian ethics at leading seminaries and universities have written a letter to President Bush criticizing his campaign's outreach to churches, particularly its effort to gather church membership directories.
    The Aug. 12 letter asked Bush to "repudiate the actions of your re-election campaign, which violated a fundamental principle of our democracy." It also urged both presidential candidates to "respect the integrity of all houses of worship."

    The letter's signers included evangelical Christians who teach at generally conservative institutions, such as the Rev. George G. Hunter III of Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky and Richard V. Pierard of Gordon College in Massachusetts. Other signers included the Revs. Paul Raushenbush of Princeton University, Walter B. Shurden of Mercer University in Georgia, James M. Dunn of Wake Forest Divinity School in North Carolina and Ronald B. Flowers of Texas Christian University.

    "When certain church leaders acceded to the request of the Bush/Cheney campaign to hand over the names and addresses of their congregants, they crossed a line," the letter said. "It is proper for church leaders to address social issues, but it is improper, and even illegal, for them to get their churches to endorse candidates or align their churches with a specific political party." -- Pastors Issue Directive in Response to Reelection Tactic (

    August 9, 2004

    "Don't you feel it is a spiritual battle?"

    The New York Times reports: Susanne Jacobsmeyer, a member of the West County Assembly of God in a St. Louis suburb, voted for George W. Bush four years ago, but mostly out of loyalty as a Republican and not with much passion.

    This year, Ms. Jacobsmeyer is a "team leader" in the Bush campaign's effort to turn out conservative Christian voters. "This year I am voting for him as a man of faith," she said over breakfast after an early morning service. "He has proven that he will do what is right, and he will look to God first."

    Jan Klarich, her friend and another team leader, agreed. "Don't you feel it is a spiritual battle?" she asked to nods around the table.

    The Bush campaign is seeking to rally conservative churches and their members to help turn out sympathetic voters this fall, and West County Assembly of God, a 600-member evangelical congregation in a Republican district of a pivotal swing state, is on the front lines of the effort. -- Churches See an Election Role and Spread the Word on Bush

    August 6, 2004

    Blogging on the State's time (and computer)

    Doug Gillett, an editor with UAB's creative services department, is passionate about his politics. He has his own Internet blog, titled "George W. Bush, Will You Please Go Now?!," and is the third-most prolific - and one of the most passionate - contributors to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Politics 101 blog.

    By noon Thursday, Gillett had generated and posted to the Internet more than 800 words of commentary, pictures and links to articles on his own blog and contributed almost 700 words to the running arguments on Politics 101.

    The problem is that he was at work at the time. He's a state employee and was using a UAB computer, and his activities could run him afoul of state elections and ethics laws.

    Election law prohibits public employees from using "state, county or city funds, property or time, for any political activities." The state ethics law has a similar prohibition. --
    UAB editor's blog raises legal questions (Birmingham News)

    July 20, 2004

    Shoe leather and number crunching

    The Washington Post reports: The 2004 election will be the first presidential election in which both national parties use their database and number-crunching skills to shape their organizing and get-out-the-vote strategies.

    Marketers have used databases to target customers for years -- they know enough about your credit history to offer you that low-interest credit card -- but the political world is just becoming acquainted. For several years, largely out of public view, the two major parties have been assembling their infobanks, each with the same daunting goal. By tracking the electorate, and employing ever more sophisticated statistical models through the field called "data mining," the parties and their candidates hope to zero in on who will vote, how they might vote, and how to persuade them to vote for Republicans or Democrats. ...

    Using little more than an off-the-shelf program and the desktop computer in his Washington office, Democratic consultant Hal Malchow shows how to predict turnout and target pools of supporters. Using the 2002 gubernatorial race in Arizona as his example, Malchow is able to match the poll responses of 5,778 likely voters against their database profiles. The program then slices and dices the data to uncover the characteristics -- in this case, middle-aged Hispanic men living in two metropolitan areas -- that defined the biggest groups of people likely to support Malchow's client but still uncertain about voting. A quick search of a voter database would return the names of those who fit this profile, making them the likely recipients of phone calls or a knock on the door by a candidate's field staff.

    "This doesn't improve [a candidate's] message one bit," said Malchow, a direct-mail expert who has been a pioneer in such targeting techniques. "It doesn't change the way a candidate looks or his personality or where he started in the polls. . . . But it can be a very, very powerful tool. In the end, it's about having knowledge that allows you to use your resources in the smartest and most efficient way." -- Parties Square Off In a Database Duel (

    July 19, 2004

    Expatriate voter registration

    The Washington Post reports: The votes of U.S. citizens living abroad are being courted by the Democratic and Republican parties more aggressively than in any previous election, officials from both parties said. They said the narrow outcome of the 2000 election, which George W. Bush won with a 537-vote margin in Florida over Democrat Al Gore, has motivated them to register every voter possible, including the millions of citizens who live abroad and are often overlooked.

    Sharon Manitta, a spokeswoman for Democrats Abroad, who lives in Salisbury, England, said her group had chapters in fewer than 30 countries for the 2000 election but has them in more than 70 countries now. She said one chapter, Donkeys in the Desert, was opened in Iraq by employees of the recently disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority.

    "It's just been incredible, just remarkable," said Manitta, who added that four months before the election, her group has already registered more than 8,000 voters in Britain.

    Republicans are also meeting with expatriates. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has met with Americans in Israel, and former vice president Dan Quayle has visited Germany. Ryan King, deputy director of Republicans Abroad in Washington, said the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, George P. Bush, would travel to France, Germany and Switzerland in September to drum up votes, and hopes to visit Mexico. -- Signing Up a Remote Electorate for November (

    A comment on the GOP's WebVoter

    A reader comments on my post about WebVoter: Washington Post picked up the story ('Minn. GOP Asks Activists to Report on Neighbors' Politics' The Washington Post Sunday, July 18, 2004; Page A05). But I think it is a mistake to characterize it as grass-roots organizing, and a mistake to gloss over the ethical import. I certainly hope this isn't the future of grassroots poliics. What the Minn. State GOP party is asking is that its 'activist' report information of their neighbors' politics, not empowering citizens to engage in politics within their communities in any democratic way. Rather, what's happening in Minnesota is simply a more fine tuned media campaign using data of its target audience without its consent. Worse still, it intend to pass on the information it has gleaned over to the administration, porportedly to help sway the presidential election. Its a more than a little discomforting to think of some database your political beliefs collected by your neighbors, given the history (recent or otherwise) of this country.

    I see this as pretty much the same thing that American Coming Together is doing with paid workers -- except the GOP is doing it with volunteers. Or am I missing something?

    July 17, 2004

    People United complains about Falwell's tax exempt status while campaigning

    The New York Times reports: Hoping to send a warning to churches helping the Bush campaign turn out conservative voters, a liberal group has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service charging that an organization run by the Rev. Jerry Falwell has violated the requirements of its tax-exempt status by endorsing Mr. Bush's re-election.

    "For conservative people of faith, voting for principle this year means voting for the re-election of George W. Bush," Mr. Falwell wrote in the July 1 issue of his e-mail newsletter "Falwell Confidential'' and on his Web site, "The alternative, in my mind, is simply unthinkable. To the pro-life, pro-family, pro-traditional marriage, pro-America voters in this nation, we must determine that President Bush is the man with our interests at heart. It is that simple." ...

    Mr. Falwell, who helped lead conservative evangelical Protestants into politics 20 years ago as the founder of the Moral Majority, also asked for contributions to a political action committee run by the social conservative Gary Bauer. "It is the organization that I believe can have the greatest impact in re-electing Mr. Bush to the Oval Office," he wrote.

    Yesterday, the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, argued in a letter to the I.R.S. that one of Mr. Falwell's religious organizations, Jerry Falwell Ministries, had disseminated the message in violation of tax rules, which restrict tax-exempt religious groups and charitable organizations from engaging in politics. -- Citing Falwell's Endorsement of Bush, Group Challenges His Tax-Exempt Status (The New York Times)

    July 11, 2004

    Ohio candidates using blogs

    AP reports: Political newcomer Jeff Seemann didn't have a campaign phone number, office or staff when he started his House race three months ago against longtime Republican incumbent Ralph Regula.

    Then the Ohio Democrat started posting comments on Internet journals, known as Web logs or "blogs," and paid to advertise on a popular Democratic Web log.

    Now Seemann has more than $25,000, an office -- with a phone number -- and a staff of 10, including four people who were attracted to his campaign through the Internet. While Regula has nearly four times as much, despite not having a campaign Web site, the money gives Seemann a chance to get his message out.

    A small but growing number of candidates, political parties and activists across the country are using the new technology of blogging to recruit volunteers, raise money and connect with voters. -- Candidates, parties use ‘blogs’ to gain voters, money (AP via

    July 8, 2004

    The Mongolian Shuffle

    The New York Times reports: Voters in this literate, sparsely populated country [Mongolia] between China and Russia have handed their governing party of former Communists an uncommon lesson that indicates that a young democracy may have come of age.

    In a boisterous election 10 days ago that pitted guile against might, the country's 1.5 million voters cut the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party numbers in the 76-seat Parliament from 72 to 36. On Wednesday, the General Election Commission confirmed that the opposition, the Motherland Democratic Coalition, known as the Democrats, won 34 seats. The Democrats claim to have won two more seats, and have taken their argument to an administrative court. They are also wooing three independents in the hope of forming a government. ...

    But a good dose of political ingenuity proved to be the tugriks' [the local currency] match. In the 2000 election, the vote difference nationwide was only a few percentage points. The opposition lost dozens of seats by tight margins. So this time around, the opposition carried out a homemade election-day redistricting program.

    With voters scattered over an area twice the size of Texas, Mongolian law generously allows voting out of one's home district with minimum paperwork and advance notice. On election day, it quickly dawned on the governing party that the opposition was employing fleets of minibuses to shuttle voters from opposition strongholds to swing districts.

    But even as the governing party scrambled to deploy its own fleets of minibuses, it watched in disbelief as safe seat after safe seat fell to bused-in voters. -- A Cunning Opposition Turns Tables in Mongolia (New York Times) *** (alternate link via the International Herald Tribune)

    July 6, 2004

    $100 million GOTV effort

    The Washington Post reports: Rosenthal has $100 million at his disposal, no boss and only one job: to find, track and deliver Democrats to the polls come November. "Hopefully, a byproduct of this is that George Bush will end up back in Crawford and," he adds sardonically, "spend the next several years trying to figure out if he really did make mistakes."

    Usually, get-out-the-vote operations start after Labor Day. Money gets spread. Precinct captains get their big day to swagger around. Not this time. The difference is that Rosenthal, the former political director of the AFL-CIO, is already prowling around out there. He is setting up an elaborate war plan that has more than a thousand paid foot soldiers marching up to doors in 17 battleground states. They come armed with Palm handhelds loaded with voter registration data and streaming video about education and jobs.

    As head of America Coming Together, one of the best-funded political interest groups created after campaign finance reform, Rosenthal -- like the Republican National Committee -- has been at this for months. Like all ruthless fighters, he is not always nice.

    "He is as mean and tough and vicious as they come," says Donna Brazile, Al Gore's campaign manager in 2000, "and that makes him more attractive. He's the last great hope of the Democratic Party." -- Ground War (

    July 3, 2004

    Bush-Cheney may have gone too far with the churches

    The Southern Baptist Convention, a conservative denomination closely aligned with President Bush (news - web sites), said it was offended by the Bush-Cheney campaign's effort to use church rosters for campaign purposes.

    "I'm appalled that the Bush-Cheney campaign would intrude on a local congregation in this way," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

    "The bottom line is, when a church does it, it's nonpartisan and appropriate. When a campaign does it, it's partisan and inappropriate," he said. "I suspect that this will rub a lot of pastors' fur the wrong way." ...

    On Friday, Land said: "It's one thing for a church member motivated by exhortations to exercise his Christian citizenship to go out and decide to work on the Bush campaign or the Kerry campaign. It's another and totally inappropriate thing for a political campaign to ask workers who may be church members to provide church member information through the use of directories to solicit partisan support." -- Baptists Angry at Bush Campaign Tactics (AP via Yahoo! News)

    Thanks to Daily Kos for the link (and some good commentary on the growth of this story).

    July 1, 2004

    Phone jamming by the GOP

    The former head of a Republican consulting group has pleaded guilty to jamming Democratic telephone lines in several New Hampshire cities on Election Day two years ago.

    The jamming involved more than 800 computer-generated calls and lasted for about 1 1/2 hours on Nov. 5, 2002, the day voters decided several races, including a close Senate contest between outgoing Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and GOP Rep. John E. Sununu, who won by fewer than 20,000 votes.

    The lines that were jammed were set up so voters could call for rides to the polls. Democrats say the jamming was an organized, statewide effort that may have even affected the outcome of some local races. -- Ex-GOP Consultant Pleads to Phone-Jamming (AP via Yahoo! News)

    Thanks to Rick Klau for the link.

    Minnesota offers fast, fast, fast relief

    Over the years, Minnesota has prided itself on clean political campaigns. We expect our candidates to be honest and to play fair. A bill passed by the 2004 Legislature that takes effect today promises to bolster that important tradition.

    The law ensures swift action on complaints involving illegal campaign practices in state and local elections. This involves everything from distributing false campaign literature to claiming bogus endorsements. Violations of campaign finance reporting requirements in local elections also are covered.

    Here's how it works: All campaign complaints will be filed with the state Office of Administrative Hearings. When a complaint is filed, an administrative law judge must make a preliminary decision within one business day whenever possible -- and always within three days at the most. A hearing is required within three days if the complaint is filed close to an election and alleges false statements in campaign material.

    These are very fast turn-around times. As a result, candidates who violate the law can expect to be held accountable in time for voters to consider their actions at the polls. Just as importantly, unfounded complaints will be disposed of in a timely manner so candidates who did nothing wrong won't be damaged. This quick timetable for sorting out the truth is expected to discourage violations and keep campaigns on the straight and narrow. -- New approach to campaign shenanigans makes sense (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

    "Cyberspace is changing political advertising"

    Want to see the edgiest ad yet from the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign? Don't bother to look on television.

    The video, called "Kerry's Coalition of the Wild-Eyed," is available only at It features rabid denunciations of President Bush from Democratic stalwarts Al Gore, Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt. It shows likely Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry shouting that Bush will "kick your ass and tell you there is no promised land." It even includes clips of an ad from, a group working to defeat Bush, comparing Bush to Hitler and Bush's foreign policy to the war crimes of the Third Reich.

    The video is only the latest manifestation of the Internet as a political frontier. At a time when the Internet has changed how campaigns raise money and organize supporters, both sides are going online - where the normal rules of political advertising don't apply - rather than over the airwaves to get out their harshest messages in the most clever ways.

    "There are certain established standards for what goes on television," said Brooks Jackson, the director of the Annenberg Political Fact Check, a nonpartisan watchdog of political ads. "Voters know what to look for. We're not used to anything on the Web, so anything goes." -- Cyberspace is changing political advertising (KRT Wire via Biloxi Sun-Herald)

    Bringing in the sheaves

    The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has sent a detailed plan of action to religious volunteers across the country asking them to turn over church directories to the campaign, distribute issue guides in their churches and persuade their pastors to hold voter registration drives.

    Campaign officials said the instructions are part of an accelerating effort to mobilize President Bush's base of religious supporters. They said the suggested activities are intended to help churchgoers rally support for Bush without violating tax rules that prohibit churches from engaging in partisan activity.

    "We strongly believe that our religious outreach program is well within the framework of the law," said Terry Holt, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

    But tax experts said the campaign is walking a fine line between permissible activity by individual congregants and impermissible activity by congregations. Supporters of Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, charged that the Bush-Cheney campaign is luring churches into risking their tax status. -- Churchgoers Get Direction From Bush Campaign (

    "The Living Room Candidate"

    The New York Times reports on "The Living Room Candidate," an online exhibition on presidential campaign ads (

    Created four years ago by the American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, the updated 2004 version, which is scheduled to go online today, allows Internet users to browse through a far richer collection of TV and Web campaign ads from 1952 to the present.

    It is a truism that political campaigns nowadays are fought and won on television, but it is also true that at this point in the campaign some of the most talked-about ads are being shown only in swing states like Ohio or Florida. The Web site allows New Yorkers and Californians to see how the other half are being wooed. ...

    "The Living Room Candidate" is more than just a helpful tool for news addicts and journalists. Campaign ads are "mini-movies," as David Schwartz, the museum's chief curator of film and a co-curator of "The Living Room Candidate," put it: they do not just deliver the message of the moment but also reflect the mood and tastes of their era. -- The > Arts > Television > The TV Watch: Showing Candidates, as They Praise Themselves and Bury Others

    Update: I should have thanked Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for the link.

    Political games

    When it comes to creating political games, of course, more than one can play, and the Democrats are having their go at it as well. The recipe is simple: mix one part political message, one part 1990's new-media optimism and one part computer animation, then bake until the money runs out.

    Some skeptics say the partisan games are mere election-year novelties. "The games are anecdotes," said Andrew Rasiej, an Internet impresario who organized a recent conference on digital democracy at the New School for Social Research in New York. "They're cute and nice, and people will send them to each other, but they're not going to capture their imagination because that populace will recognize that the culture that's creating these games isn't a natural Net culture. It's a typical political machine using it to showcase itself."

    But advocates say the game format offers a powerful new political vehicle. Traditional forms of political communication like advertising treat voters as passive recipients of rhetoric, they say, while games entice the potential voter to interact with the message. -- In These Games, the Points Are All Political (New York Times)

    June 26, 2004

    Strange Bush ad

    Rick Klau has a post, An anti-Bush ad at..., about an ad running on Bush's site and a wonderful, witting deconstruction and critique of the ad.

    Naders' real enemy is the winner-take-all election

    Nader, 70, has every intention of playing a pivotal role in the 2004 presidential election, but his campaign is dogged by doubts, dissension and disorganization. The consumer activist is indefatigable, and his supporters are worshipful. But the pall of the 2000 election, in which many Democrats believe Nader tipped New Hampshire and Florida to George W. Bush, hangs heavily over the campaign.

    In private, four of Nader's five supporters around the table said they will vote for Democrat John F. Kerry if polls in late October show Nader tipping the state [New Hampshire] to President Bush.

    At Nader's previous campaign stop in a small conference room at Suffolk University in Boston, his top Massachusetts aide said he had tried to rent a larger meeting space at FleetCenter but was told the facility did not want to offend Democrats who were preparing to host their national convention there in July.

    And at a California fundraiser, Nader said, two contributors were so fearful of the backlash from Democrats that they showed up in disguise. -- An Outsider Tries to Shake the 'Spoiler' Label (

    Will "Fahrenheit 9/11" affect the election?

    During the screening [of Fahrenheit 9/11] at the Uptown Theatre, I sat next to a newspaper reporter who was raised in an activist Republican party family, whose sister worked previously for the Bush White House and who considers herself moderate. She cried through the second half of the movie, which featured graphic images of injured and killed Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers and focused on the U.S. military's efforts to recruit minorities and poor whites.

    She and others who don't hew to Moore's hardcore lefty vision of the world gave him credit for, if nothing else, presenting an incredibly cohesive and emotionally stirring piece of work.

    "There's no way people are not going to come out of this hating Bush," she said. Which, of course, is exactly what the GOP fears. Conservative opposition is not based on the belief that this is just some commie-pinko rant that'll be ignored by the masses.

    The White House, furious about the Bush-bashing, anti-war movie, has wisely decided to take a low-key approach, allowing surrogates to do most of the work – and they've done it with zeal. One California-based organization, Move America Forward, has orchestrated a letter-writing campaign to theaters around the country, demanding that they refuse to show Moore's movie. Conservative talk radio and television hosts have filled their segments with rants against it. And the president's father called Moore a "slimeball."

    The conservative group Citizens United announced Thursday that its president, David N. Bossie, had filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, asserting that television ads for the movie are restricted under some of the new campaign finance rules created by the McCain-Feingold legislation. -- Buzz Around Moore's Movie May Be Able to Shake the Election (

    June 22, 2004

    Nader may be booted from Arizona ballot

    Democrats in Arizona are challenging signatures Nader submitted to get on that state's ballot. Word from the field is that there are probably enough suspect signatures to keep Nader off the ballot.

    In addition to suspect signatures, entire reams of signatures can be invalidated if the person collecting them is a felon. Turns out that out of the 122 paid people who gathered the Nader signatures, at least 19 are confirmed felons. One of them was convicted for forgery. -- Daily Kos